Kansas City has won nine straight through Tuesday, outscoring opponents 50-13 and allowing one run or less in seven of nine wins.
When the Olympic Games began less than three weeks ago in Rio and other parts of Brazil, the Kansas City Royals were left for dead. The defending World Series champions were hopelessly behind in their chase to make the playoffs and defend their first title since 1985.
On August 6th, they were 9.5 games behind the second wild-card and seven games below .500. Fast forward to Wednesday, where the Royals sit just four games out of wild-card contention after a 1-0 win in Miami against the Marlins, their ninth in a row and 12 of 13. It was their third shutout of the month after recording just three all season until August.
If the Royals win Wednesday night against Jose Fernandez, the winning streak would reach 10 and tie the longest by a defending world champion (2009 Phillies) in the last decade.
Yes, the Royals will have to climb over all but one of Detroit, Seattle, Baltimore and either Toronto or Boston to get into the top two for wild-card contention, but at least they can see those teams now after this 14-2 run.
While Kansas City has hit a little better during its current nine-game winning streak, outscoring foes 50-13, it’s been dominant pitching that has paved the way for this move.
In the last nine games, the numbers truly are staggering. Eighty-three innings pitched, 52 hits, 17 walks, 73 strikeouts, two shutouts, five saves, a 1.19 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. It’s like having a healthy Wade Davis, the closer, pitch every inning of every game.
The starting pitching has been spectacular, going 11-1 with a 2.38 ERA during this stretch.
The bullpen has been even better. The last time a Kansas City relief pitcher gave up a run was Aug. 10. That’s 32 consecutive scoreless innings in the books for KC pitchers, a franchise record. The numbers in this 16-game stretch going back to early August: 45 1/3 IP, 19 hits, four earned runs, nine walks, 48 strikeouts and
Still, enthusiasm must be tempered. It’s going to take about 90 wins to get to the wild-card, so as of the end of play Sunday night, Kansas City would still need to win 26 of its last 38 games. Even last season, when they won more games than anyone in the league, the Royals never had a stretch where they went 26-12 over the course of 38 games. The seven-win July will almost assuredly come back to bite them in late September.
But most Kansas City fans had these same thoughts two years ago at this time of year. Then Kansas City went on to sneak into the wild-card, come back from two improbable deficits against Oakland in the one-game playoff, then win two series and advance to a seventh game of the World Series. Madison Bumgarner became just the third pitcher in history to retire the final batter of a Game 7 with the tying run on third base and two outs to lead the Giants over the Royals – just barely.
There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and if the Royals keep playing it this well, you’ll see them in October for a third straight year.