KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This was the vision Dayton Moore had eight years ago when he accepted the offer from Royals owner David Glass to become the team’s general manager: The Royals battling for a division crown in late September in front of a packed Kauffman Stadium.
"It’s the culmination of a lot of work from a lot of people in our organization," Moore said. "And it’s a reflection of the commitment from the Glass family to build this organization into a winning one."
But as the Royals, just a half-game behind Detroit for first place in the American League Central, prepare for a three-game showdown with the Tigers starting tonight, Moore can’t help but feel a bit like he’s on the sideline right now.
"At this point of the season, there’s not much else you can do (as a GM)," he said. "You watch and you hope you’ve put enough pieces in place to win a championship. But right now, you just watch."
PARTY AT THE K
The Royals anticipate all three games being near capacity or sold out this weekend. More than 100,000 tickets already have been sold.
That would push the Royals’ season attendance near 1,950,000 and past the 1993 total of 1,934,578. This season’s attendance then will be the most since 1991, when the Royals drew 2,161,537 fans.
"Our fans have been tremendously supportive," Moore said. "Hopefully, we can reward them."
TIME TO STEP UP
Ned Yost’s new batting order has paid some dividends at the top, where Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain are 26 for 63 (.417) since the shuffle.
But the Royals are still looking for production from the middle, where Alex Gordon, Sal Perez and Billy Butler have contributed very little in September. The Royals will need that trio to step out of its funk against the Tigers, though Butler probably will get only one shot, and that would be against Justin Verlander, a pitcher he usually owns.
"We have to get Gordo and Sal going," one club official said recently. "If they get hot again, I like our chances."
The BULLPEN USE
There has been a lot of chatter in the past week about Yost’s use of the bullpen, especially last Sunday when he left Aaron Crow in to face Daniel Nava instead of bringing in Kelvin Herrera an inning earlier than usual.
Nava drilled a grand slam and the Royals lost, and Yost subsequently was heavily criticized. Yost then did exactly what many fans and critics begged him to do two nights later — he went to Herrera in the sixth and Wade Davis in the seventh. That didn’t work, either, and the Royals still lost.
At some point, isn’t it the responsibility of the players to perform no matter when they come in a game?
DON’T COUNT OUT THE TRIBE
While the focus for the Royals has been on conquering Detroit for the division title, or beating out either Oakland or Seattle for one wild-card spot, there’s still another scary team out there to consider: Cleveland.
The standings show the Indians are 4 1/2 games behind the Royals, but keep in mind that it is more like 3 1/2 because the Indians have another win virtually sewed up — the suspended game to be resumed Monday in which they have a two-run lead with the Royals in their final at-bat.
While the Tigers and Royals go after each other this weekend, the Indians have three games at Minnesota, which has nothing to play for. Then the Indians get the Royals at home for three (plus the suspended game) and the Rays — who also have nothing to play for — at home for three.
The Indians were able to sneak into the playoffs last year by winning each of their last 10 games. They are not dead yet.
One team that seems to be helping the Royals’ postseason chances is Oakland, which is in a total collapse and now stands a half-game behind the Royals for the top wild-card spot.
Can you believe the A’s were once 28 games over .500? They now have lost 25 of their last 36 games. Ouch.