You can now call them "the 1st place Royals"

By Steve Sell
June 18, 2014

We all know this is going to end at some point. In fact, it could end this afternoon.

But as the master of the malaprop — Kansas City color analyst Rex Hudler — says, “ride the wave for as long as you can.”

Kansas City, now in foreign territory as it’s atop the AL Central standings, will not continue to score 11 runs a game as it has done in its first two games against former leader and reigning division champion Detroit. Its winning streak, currently at nine, will be scissored. The Royals at some point will probably return to the puny, punchless offensive team that was its trademark for April and May, but hopefully for just a game here and there.

For long-suffering Royals fans, this is a breath of fresh air. First place in June. It’s been a long time, too long in fact, since those words have been uttered. There’s a current group of Royals fans who weren’t around in the 1970s and 1980s when the team seemingly played on a trampoline, using its athleticism and “Whitey Ball” to challenge the mighty New York Yankees every year for American League supremacy. All they’ve known is losing and it’s as comfortable as an old pair of Converse shoes.

This team has left white-hot in its rear-view mirror. Its pitching and defense have been sensational all year, but now the previously moribund offense believes it’s the second coming of the 1927 Yankees. Like my golf game, these things are cyclical. It just so happens that everybody has gotten hot at the same time after being “Team Deep Freeze” for two months, except for Alex Gordon.

The Royals are leaving their critics venomless. There’s nothing to spew vitriol about. They have been as close to perfection in the Detroit series as humanly possible, except for the now-banished Donnie Joseph being lit up for six runs in the ninth inning of Monday’s laugher that resulted in a deceiving 11-8 victory.

While the offense and pitching have received most of the props, how about that defense? Gordon is the unquestioned Gold Glove Godfather of this team, but those who have watched Lorenzo Cain bob and weave between center and right field this year will say his glove will glitter with gold after this season. The uber-athletic Cain, who still seems to be such a raw talent at times, is starting to make as regular appearances on Sports Center as Jonathan Coachman. In back-to-back games, he has made catches for the ages, his slider on Monday and his arm-extended grab on Tuesday.

I’ve been perhaps among the harshest of critics when it comes to Kansas City manager Ned Yost. I’ve gotten on him for leaving his pitchers in too long and trying not to hurt anybody’s feelings. I also think he coddles his players too much, but his patience is now being rewarded. When the team was scuffling like a bunch of offensive ham and eggers, it was Yost who assured everyone the team would hit and runs would come in bunches.

The Royals’ Hall of Fame announcer, the sage Denny Matthews, perhaps sent out a warning signal last night after the team’s most recent win. He pointed out that given the marathon of a season, the baseball gods can taketh away what they have giveth in a blink of an eye. This winning streak could be followed by a losing streak of similar length with this year’s Boston Red Sox proof of that. But that’s baseball. That’s what makes it such a wonderful and maddening game.


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