Is this Wade Davis' final chance?
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Five observations on the current state of the Royals.
MAKE OR BREAK FOR DAVIS?
Yes, the Royals continue to say that right-hander Wade Davis is not in peril of losing his position in the rotation.
But another horrific start by Davis -- and he has had two in his last three starts -- could make the Royals change their mind.
If they are serious about staying in contention in the Central, they can't wait much longer on Davis and his 5.89 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. They simply can't afford to.
If Davis bombs again tonight, the Royals' options are limited, of course. They can return Luis Mendoza to the rotation, but the feeling here is that manager Ned Yost simply won't go that route. He has framed Mendoza in a long relief role for quite some time.
Option No. 2 is left-hander Danny Duffy, recovering from Tommy John surgery. Duffy struck out 13 hitters in a Double-A game last week in 5 1/3 innings. (He was transferred from Triple-A Omaha briefly last week so he could pitch during the Triple-A All-Star break, which should tell you that the Royals may be close to calling him up.)
Coincidentally, Duffy starts tonight for the Omaha Storm Chasers against Oklahoma City, the same night Davis makes his crucial start for the Royals.
The Royals really did the bare minimum they could over the weekend to stay in the conversation in the AL Central. A sweep would have been fabulous -- two of three is acceptable, nothing more.
The Royals now are 7-9 as they begin the final four-game series with Baltimore that concludes the 20-game gauntlet against playoff contenders.
Winning three of four from the Orioles would present a case that the Royals are ready to make a run. Splitting the series again only keeps them in the conversation. Anything less than that and ...
Keep in mind, though, that as much as the frustrated fan base wants the Royals to start selling off parts to get more offense, the Royals will start a 12-game stretch with the likes of the White Sox, Twins and Mets. The last time the schedule softened in June, the Royals won six straight and 11 of 13.
Also remember that the Royals are 5-3 now against the mighty Tigers. They are capable of playing good baseball against the division's best.
STAYING ALIVE PART II
You have no doubt noticed lately that Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain has struggled to come through with clutch hits. He has no homers and one RBI in his last nine games.
Yet Cain can claim a current nine-game hitting streak -- he has one hit in each of those nine games. Not exactly sizzling. His overall average remains stuck at .258.
HURRAH FOR HERRERA?
We've been tempted to claim reliever Kelvin Herrera is fixed before, only to see him demoted back to Omaha (twice).
Herrera is back and in two outings over the weekend looked a lot like the dominating pitcher he was last season when he was Yost's primary eighth-inning setup guy. Herrera set down the Tigers on Friday in a high-leverage appearance in a 1-0 win. He did give up a cheap run Sunday after a couple of soft hits and a sacrifice fly.
Herrera tells me he made one adjustment with his setup -- he is slightly more crouched from the stretch, with his arms and hands closer to his body. "Just trying to conceal the ball a little more," Herrera said.
Earlier this season, some observers thought Herrera might be tipping his pitches by stretching out his arms during his setup.
I am not going to harp on the woes of the offense … well, check that, yes I am. The Royals were held to a single run in two of the three games against Detroit, and were fortunate to win the series.
The waiting game continues as to when the Royals' offense will finally snap out of its season-long funk and start carrying its weight. That is the only way the Royals will make any kind of run.
And for that to happen, the Royals will need two or three or four guys to get hot all at once -- something that hasn't happened all season.
As one Royals official told me, "Every team in baseball has a stretch where two or three guys get really hot and carry the team for a few weeks. We haven't had that, not once this season."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.