July 12, 2024

Even after a rough week against Yankees and Dodgers, it’s been a remarkable season for Royals

Kansas City Royals second baseman Matt Duffy (15) celebrates in the dugout after scoring off of a triple by MJ Melendez during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, April 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

By NOAH TRISTER AP Baseball Writer

The Kansas City Royals took their lumps this past week against two of the best teams in baseball.

That shouldn’t detract from their remarkable rise, which would be unprecedented if it results in a playoff berth.

The Royals lost 106 games last season. No team has improved from that many defeats to make the postseason a year later. The 2017 Minnesota Twins were the first team to qualify a season after triple-digit losses. They went 59-103 the previous year. The Miami Marlins lost 105 games in 2019 and made the postseason in 2020, but that was with an expanded playoff field following a 60-game regular season.

Kansas City was put to the test against the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, and it was ugly at times. The Royals lost three of four against New York and were outscored 28-12. Then they went to Los Angeles and dropped two of three. But even after all that, they’re nine games over .500 and occupying the second wild-card spot in the American League.

The Royals have a young star enjoying a breakout season in shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., and a veteran who is still producing in catcher Salvador Perez. But the real story in Kansas City might be the stability of the starting rotation.

Seth Lugo, Cole Ragans and Brady Singer all have ERAs under 3.50, and the Royals’ starters as a whole rank eighth in baseball at 3.56. Only the Mariners, Yankees and Phillies have gotten more innings from their starters than Kansas City.

The Royals also haven’t had to go too deep into their pool of pitchers. They have five who have made at least 12 starts.

The schedule eases up a bit now. Kansas City plays its next nine games against Oakland, a struggling Texas team and Miami. Then comes a huge series with Cleveland — the current AL Central leader — at the end of the month.

Ready to return?

Gerrit Cole could be back with the New York Yankees shortly — they haven’t announced a starter yet for the second game of their big series this week against Baltimore. Cole has made three rehab starts, the most recent one on Friday. He’s missed the whole season so far because of right elbow problems.

Philadelphia expects to activate star shortstop Trea Turner on Monday. He hasn’t played since early May because of hamstring issues.

Trivia Time

Lugo is 10-2, so at least for now he’s on pace to reach the 20-win milestone this year. Who is the last Kansas City player to do that?

Line of the Week

Houston’s Ronel Blanco, who pitched a no-hitter in April, worked seven hitless innings Sunday in the Astros’ 4-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers. He was pulled after 94 pitches and eight strikeouts. Blanco walked three.

Comeback of the Week

Down 4-0 to the Chicago White Sox in the bottom of the eighth Monday night, Seattle rallied to tie it on a solo homer by Dominic Canzone, a two-run single by Mitch Haniger and a run-scoring bunt single by Luke Raley. Then with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Cal Raleigh hit a grand slam to give the Mariners an 8-4 win. The White Sox had a 97.3% chance to win in the eighth inning, according to Baseball Savant.

The White Sox have just seven comeback victories this year and 26 losses in which they blew a lead. They are 5-33 when the opponent scores first and only 14-21 when they score first. Every other major league team has a winning record when scoring first.

Trivia Answer

Bret Saberhagen, who went 23-6 in 1989.