The Kansas City Royals arrived at the All-Star break with a sad-sack 27-68 record, the worst in Major League Baseball.
The Royals are on the fast track to their worst season ever. The All-Star break couldn’t have come at a better time, as it gave them a chance to hit the re-set button.
Unfortunately, the Minnesota Twins were coming to town right after the time off. They were one of baseball’s hottest teams entering the break, going 9-2 over their last 11 games and pounding out more than 6 runs per game.
Instead of hanging their heads and mailing it in, the Royals suddenly played like the Royals of old. And Kauffman Stadium, a morgue most of the year, came back to life.
The bullpen tried to blow Friday’s opener as they nearly wasted another quality start by the resurgent Danny Duffy. The Twins scored three in the ninth, but Brandon Maurer finally nailed it down for a 6-5 win.
On Saturday, the Royals came away with a 4-2 win as Brian Flynn delivered some nice work out of the bullpen in relief of starter Jakob Junis, who had been struggling mightily but was relatively sharp in his first game off the disabled list.
Then came Sunday and some of that old Royals magic.
With the game tied at 2-all in the seventh, Drew Butera of all people hit an inside-the-park three-run homer. Kauffman Stadium literally shook as Butera is one of the most popular Royals and the celebration by KC players and fans was priceless. Alcides Escobar, not one to show emotion, looked like a kid who had just opened a prized Christmas present. Salvador Perez, coming off an All-Star appearance, was whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
Yes, for one weekend, the Royals turned back the clock to 2015.
Give the fans a lot of credit for the sweep. Say what you will about the Royals’ subpar play this year, but the fan base has not given up on the team. They’re still averaging more than 20,000 fans, who have endured a sickly offense, starting pitching that doesn’t go deep into games and a bullpen that excels at putting kerosene on a fire.
But that hasn’t stopped the “Let’s Go Royals” chants. There’s been no booing of Alex Gordon, whose massive contract is an albatross around the team’s neck. Perez, for doubleplay after doubleplay he hits into, is still the lovable Salvy who enchants the fans with his love for the game.
The Royals do have a chance to get on a mini-roll. They have a likewise struggling Detroit team coming to town for three. You can just go ahead and pencil in four losses this weekend at the New York Yankees, who will light up the KC pitching staff, but after that it’s a pair of three-game road series with the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota, teams they match up well with.
The Royals are going to lose more than 100 games, you can set it in stone. How many over 100 is going to be the question. But manager Ned Yost hasn’t quit on the team and they’re not going to quit on him. It’ll be interesting, though, to see the heart once Mike Moustakas is traded, which will be any day now.