Monday night's sluggish hiccup aside, the Kansas City Royals have been rolling despite the fact injuries have wreaked havoc with their starting rotation and their hitting at times can be maddeningly inconsistent since they have so little plate discipline.
The Royals are in firm control of the American League’s Central Division. Minnesota is still hanging around, but the general consensus is the Twins will at some point start to fall back as they simply don't have the depth or talent to make it to September.
Everybody keeps waiting for division favorite Detroit to reel off a hot stretch, but to be honest the Tigers would be far back if not for the heroics of Miguel Cabrera and white-hot homer machine J.D. Martinez.
I’ve been of the belief that Cleveland is still going to be the team to make the biggest challenge. But we’re nearly at the halfway point of the season and the Indians are still well under .500 despite the fact they have the potential for the best starting rotation, but their lefty-filled batting order lacks balance.
Chicago has been the flop of the year after it made a cannonball of a splash in the offseason, but the newcomers have had miserable seasons.
The Royals are doing it away from The K, as they are by far the American League’s top road warriors. Two of three wins in Seattle were followed by a sweep in Oakland to start the current lengthy road trip. Hopefully they can find a way to win one of three in Houston, as tonight's game is a probable loss since Astros ace Dallas Keuchel has been practically untouchable.
June had the potential to be a disaster month for the Royals. They played only 11 home games and tonight will be their 16th road game. Their series with Houston matches the teams with the American League’s two-best records, and they’ve also played series at first-place St. Louis and second-place Minnesota. Oakland had won five in a row when Kansas City invaded The O over the weekend and its pitching cooled the A’s.
The big question for the Royals now is what tweaks do they make before the trade deadline. Manager Ned Yost is a guy who plays a pat hand, as evident by the few number of off days his starters have had. You just hope that doesn't come back to bite him in those dog days of August.
I would think, though, the Royals might be looking at a rental perhaps for right field. Alex Rios got off to a great start in April, but has been lost since returning from his broken hand. His bat speed has slowed dramatically and most of his plate appearances result in lazy fly balls to the opposite field.
The player on everybody’s radar is Oakland's Ben Zobrist, who can play multiple positions, including second base and right field — the Royals’ two weak links. Zobrist is a pro’s pro and would be such a perfect fit for a team that doesn’t have any superstars, just solid blue-collar guys.
The Royals, who have squeezed about all they can out of retread Joe Blanton, could look to add another starting pitcher, but I think they’re waiting to see what they have in Kris Medlen, who has missed all season. He is coming back soon from his second Tommy John surgery, but when healthy he’s one of the better pitchers in baseball. Atlanta grew weary of his injury situation and Dayton Moore had the wisdom to take a flyer. He could be another Chris Young, who has given the Royals more than they ever expected.
The Royals certainly are in good position heading into the Fourth of July, which is generally regarded a traditional baseball measuring stick. Teams in first place on the 4th often go on to win their divisions.