Royals’ Moore: ‘I think there is another run in us’

Do the Royals have what it takes to make the postseason? 

Peter Aiken/Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Last year at this time, Royals general manager Dayton Moore boldly suggested, "There’s no reason this team can’t go on a run where you win 15 of 20."

Moore immediately was mocked in blogs, in print and on talk radio.

Of course, we remember what happened next. The Royals did even better than 15 of 20 — they won 18 of 23 after the All-Star break.

This time around, Moore isn’t attaching any numbers to a second-half surge. But he is expecting another burst.

"I think there is another run in us," Moore told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "Offensively, we’ve had some players get hot at certain times, but we really haven’t put it all together as a unit yet.

"I think we’re capable of staying in this thing, especially if we can get the offense going consistently."

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With that in mind, the Royals need five things to happen if they are to contend for the postseason.

OTHERS JOIN IN WITH HOZ

The Royals have been waiting all season, it seems, for gifted first baseman Eric Hosmer to not only get hot, but to start driving the ball with authority.

That time finally came in the last two weeks. Riding a career-high 13-game hitting streak, Hosmer has put together a slash line of .412/.492/.627 since June 30 for a whopping 1.119 OPS.

That the Royals are only 6-7 during Hoz’s hot streak tells you he can’t do it alone. But if one or two other hitters also go on a tear with Hoz, Moore might just get that second-half burst.

GORDON GETS HEALTHY

The Royals likely can survive two more missed starts from Jason Vargas (appendectomy), which probably is his timetable to return anyway.

But we can all agree that the Royals’ lineup looks a lot less formidable without Alex Gordon in left field and hitting fourth or fifth in the order. As we have noticed since Gordon’s wrist injury, the Royals’ outfield defense takes a major hit (Nori Aoki or Raul Ibanez in left field isn’t a pretty sight) without his presence. The Royals expect Gordon, who went into the break with nine homers and 44 RBI, back this Friday in Boston — and they need him back.

BIG GAME JAMES REMAINS BIG

After a rough two-month stretch, James Shields appears to have righted his ship. His last two outings have been outstanding — 14 innings, 10 hits, two runs, one walk and 18 strikeouts.

The Royals have a solid rotation, but they need their ace to be on top of his game in these final 2 1/2 months if they are to make a bid for the postseason.

This also likely is his final stretch with the Royals — he is a free agent after this season. Moore and Co. certainly hope he finishes strong and leads the Royals to the playoffs, which would justify that monster trade in 2012.

SOLVE THE RIGHT-FIELD RIDDLE

It will be interesting to see how the Royals’ roster will look at the end of July, especially now that they are carrying five outfielders again.

The Ibanez signing hasn’t provided much so far, though he did get a big hit (finally) in the Royals’ five-run rally in the seventh Sunday. The guess here is that the Royals will patiently wait for a couple more weeks to see if Ibanez can be a help down the stretch. If Ibanez struggles some more, it will be hard to justify his roster spot.

Meanwhile, the Royals also must decide if they should stick with Aoki in right field or try to make a dramatic upgrade, which would require Moore parting with some prized prospects, for sure. Aoki has been only adequate at best defensively. And offensively, he’s not really enough of a threat on the bases to justify his non-existent power.

I’ve suggested before that I didn’t think Moore would make a splashy deal before the July 31 deadline. But if the Royals’ offense sputters coming out of the break, look for him to seek a major upgrade in right field. He is as frustrated as anyone about the offense’s shortcomings.

ROYALS GET A SENSE OF URGENCY

I keep hearing the same refrain from Royals players when I bring up their record or how many games they are behind Detroit — "It’s a long season."

Well, that "long" season is getting shorter every day. The Royals are down to 68 games remaining, and it truly is time for them to pick up the pace and ditch the philosophy that they still have all kinds of time.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.