On July 18, with the ballclub 43-49, Dayton Moore still exuded optimism, telling Bob Dutton, "there’s no reason this team can’t go on a run where you win 15 of 20." We mocked him of course, but I'll be darned if the Royals didn't do almost exactly that. A win tonight or tomorrow would clinch a 15-5 record or better in the twenty games since Dayton Moore uttered that statement. The only team in the league hotter than the Royals during that stretch sadly has been the division-leading Tigers, who are 14-3 since that date. Cleveland has also won 11 of 18 during that stretch, but overlooked has been the good play of Minnesota, who despite having a lousy season, have won 10 of 18 during that stretch including 4 of their last 5.
The Royals and Twins have engaged in meaningful August baseball before. In 2003, the Royals and Twins faced off for a three game set in early August at the K with the Royals leading Minnesota by four games. Jimmy Gobble started the first game in front of a capacity crowd at Kauffman Stadium and was blitzed for five runs in three innings of work, as the Royals lost 9-2. The next night, Runelvys Hernandez gave up nine runs in just over three inninsg of work as the Royals lost 14-5. The Royals went into that Sunday afternoon with the Twins now just two games back. Raul Ibanez and Joe Randa would hit back-to-back third inning home runs off Twins starter Rick Reed and Darryl May would hold on for a quality start in a 5-4 Royals victory, giving the Royals a three game lead.
They would then head to New York, get swept by the Yankees, and fall out of first place for good.
While tonight might be a very big game, let's just remember that this time of year, EVERY game is a big game. Every game is a chance to gain a game on your opponents. Every loss is a chance for your opponents to gain a game on you. There are no nights off this time of year.
Samuel Deduno gets the start for the Twins in the rubber match. The 29 year old journeyman right-hander has allowed just 1 run over 13 innings against the Royals this year. For the Royals, its the return of Danny Duffy, the boy wonder who posted a 3.90 ERA in six starts last year with a strikeout per inning and who struck out eleven hitters per nine innings this year in the minors after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Duffy is not expected to stick in the rotation, as he's filling in for Wade Davis, but let's hope his performance is so overwhelming that the Royals have to re-consider that notion.