Can the Royals close the gap in the Central?
The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, a combined 33-10 since July 23rd, have been two of the hottest teams in the league the past month. Now, they’re all geared up for a 5-game series in Detroit that could go a long way in dictating whether the Tigers will have some serious competition for the Central Division crown or whether they can take more of a deep breath before the postseason begins.
The long series begins Thursday night when Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie faces Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez. Then a double-header on Friday will have significant pull in the series before the weekend’s final two games give us the complete cycle through each team’s rotation.
Yeah a 3-game series is cool and all, but 5 games? Things just mean so much more.
As of now, the Tigers sit at 70-49, 6 games above the second-place Indians and 7.5 games ahead of the 62-56 Royals - who were, I remind you, an uninspiring 45-51 before the July 23rd turnaround.
A Tigers sweep would make it all but impossible for the Royals to crawl back into contention, but a Royals sweep would bring them within 2.5 games of the Tigers.
Starting pitching will be the main factor to watch in the series. Detroit’s got one of the best top-to-bottom rotations in the game with 17-game winner Max Scherzer, former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the solid supporting duo of Sanchez and Doug Fister. 5th starter Rick Porcello is the wildcard of the gang and it’ll be interesting to see which Porcello shows up in the series finale on Sunday.
Kansas City’s recent success has had a lot to do with starting pitching. Ervin Santana and James Shields have effectively carried the staff all season and Jeremy Guthrie’s 12 wins have been a great addition as well. But the recent return of Bruce Chen to the rotation after a half-season trial in the bullpen has been one of the biggest reasons for the team’s recent surge. In his six starts this season - all of which since July 12th - Chen has allowed a total of 4 runs while pitching at least 6 innings in each appearance.
Closing out the staff is the inconsistent Wade Davis, much like the unpredictable Porcello, maybe slightly less reliable.
From a hitting standpoint, the Royals can’t really matchup with the Tigers, but they’ll need to get the key hits at the key times. Billy Butler’s swinging one of the hottest bats in the league right now (outside of Cabrera and Davis of course) and the rest of the lineup has greatly benefit from his recent hot streak. But the meat of the Tigers lineup is a big hurdle for the Kansas City pitching to climb, and whether or not the staff can work their way around it could determine whether their playoff fight continues.