KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As they were just over a week ago, the Royals again are facing a potential breaking point to the season.
After Tuesday’s disheartening 2-1 loss to the last-place Twins, the Royals have dropped 3 1/2 games behind in the wild-card race, while remaining five games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central.
Must-win tonight? With 57 games left on the schedule, maybe it’s early to be making such a suggestion.
But the Royals have to be feeling a sense of urgency right now, or they will find themselves drifting behind the pack of teams vying for that second wild-card spot.
SOMEBODY STEP UP AT THE PLATE
The Royals’ biggest issue all season has been their chronic lack of hitting, especially in high-leverage situations. This is a team that consistently wastes great pitching outings.
Consider that the Royals are just 12-21 in one-run games: As good as the Royals’ starters and bullpen have been this year, that record in one-run games tells you how lame the offense really has been.
Even more damning is that the Royals already have lost eight games by the score of 2-1, including last night’s dud. They’ve also lost two 1-0 games and another 2-0 game. If someone on the offense could have come through with a big hit in just six of those games, they’d be in first place ahead of Detroit by one game.
Billy Butler came through with two huge homers last weekend against Cleveland to win games. We’re still waiting for someone else in the lineup to step up.
Last year, by the way, the Royals were 31-25 in one-run games.
ALEX NEEDS TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Alex Gordon was one of the players to stand up last week and call out his teammates. He suggested everyone should start looking at their own performances with a critical eye.
Of course, Gordon needs to do the same. While Gordon continues to play magnificent defense, he is again drifting into a painful slump, at a most inappropriate time.
Gordon is just 2 for his last 19 and has just one RBI and no extra-base hits during that span.
The Royals really needed him last night in the ninth when they were on the verge of what could have been a magnificent rally. Omar Infante rifled a double to lead off. Eric Hosmer lined a single to score Infante. Sal Perez scorched a liner to left that was caught.
It was clear that Twins closer Glen Perkins was on the ropes.
But Gordon then hit a weak fly to center, and Butler hit a soft lineout and the rally fizzled. Another 2-1 loss.
WHY THE FUSS ABOUT VALENCIA?
It’s strange that a small segment of the Royals’ fan base apparently is upset that Dayton Moore dealt third baseman Danny Valencia, as if that trade was a sign that Moore was sending up a white flag to the season.
Really? Danny Valencia?
Is this the same Valencia whom most fans didn’t even want on the team coming out spring training? The same Valencia who in 119 plate appearances this season has two homers and five doubles?
He was the key to the Royals’ playoff chances? Come on.
I liked Valencia personally. He was always good to us, was approachable and gave thoughtful answers.
But the truth is, Valencia wasn’t regarded as much of a team player. He wasn’t exactly revered in the clubhouse. And as one Royals coach recently told me, "I think he thinks he’s way better than he is."
I guess I’m in the minority, but I like the addition of Christian Colon and the subtraction of Valencia.
BIG GAME JAMES WAS BIG
You have to tip your hat to Royals ace James Shields, who didn’t have his best command Tuesday night and yet still willed his way through six innings to keep the Royals close at 2-0.
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Shields did it by heaving 124 pitches toward the plate — the most pitches he has thrown for the Royals in a game since he has been here.
Alas, his offense didn’t show the same fight.
LET’S MAKE A DEAL?
The trade deadline is approaching — 3 p.m. Thursday — and while the Royals have had some conversations on potential deals, it doesn’t appear a major move is on the horizons.
Of course, that could all change in the next day if the perfect deal presented itself. But Moore, right or wrong, continues to show conviction in the core of this roster.
Offensive duds like Tuesday night certainly will test that conviction, but there doesn’t appear to be a solution on the trade market — at least one that wouldn’t ravage the Royals’ farm system.