Not even a month ago, the Royals had made such a habit of losing that it was ridiculously routine. With 11 wins in their last 17 games, our Boys in Blue have almost - almost mind you - made winning seem routine. Basically, you hit the ball and do so with some of your own kind on base. Your starting pitcher keeps you in the game and gets you into the sixth or seventh inning. Your bullpen gets the other team out and your defense doesn't screw up - or, at least doesn't screw up as much as the other team's does.
Simple: winning baseball.
The Chicago White Sox, a team that always strikes me as one with a bit of a bully mentality about them, came into Kansas City this weekend leading the American League Central. They had their two best pitchers (at least this for this season) going on Friday and Saturday night and, well, have lost them both. Gotta be honest, feels pretty good.
One pretty much had the sense this was going to be Kansas City's night when the Royals added to their 1-0 lead with two runs in the third. They did so by leading off the inning with a straight up pop fly off the bat of Lorenzo Cain that maybe made it three feet out into fair territory where it was promptly dropped by catcher Tyler Flowers. That's a tougher play than those of us not physically located in the dirt might think and it was quickly erased when Cain was doubled off first on Alcides Escobar's humpback liner to second that my four year old knew was going to get caught.
The fun, however, was only beginning.
Alex Gordon followed with a bloop just inside the left field line that he attempted to stretch into a double. Luckily, the Royals' aggressive baserunning (that's right, kids, when it works we say aggressive) forced Gordon Beckham into dropping the ball as he tried to apply the tag.
After Gordon scored via a Billy Butler single and a nice fade away slide, Mike Moustakas singled to Sox rightfielder Alex Rios, who promptly misplayed the ball. To his credit, Rios retrieved and uncorked an excellent throw only to see third baseman Kevin Youkilis drop that throw as Moustakas rumbled into third.
We have seen this kind of baseball before in Kansas City, just not all that often by the visiting team.
Bruce Chen, who spent the better part of the last six weeks looking like the magic was over, polished off another fine outing as he covered six innings, allowing two runs and striking out five. The only bad thing about Chen's performance is that I fear that each start from Chen like this down the stretch puts Dayton Moore and David Glass one step closer to saying 'you know, we may not need a couple of new starting pitchers.'
Tim Collins made things interesting by allowing a two run jack to Adam Dunn in the eighth, but the Royals answered mightily in the bottom of the frame when Escobar, Gordon, Butler and Moustakas combined for four two-out runs, the bulk courtesy of Moose's three run - dare we say it? - dong.
Those four, batting two-three-four-five in the order combined for 12 of the Royals' 15 hits, 8 of the 9 runs and drove in 8 of the 9 as well. Particularly nice to see Moustakas have a good night as he was just three for his last 24.
I have spent the better part of the my last three columns wondering what it a strong finish might mean, if anything, for the Royals. Those questions remain open, but one thing is for sure: it's fun to win with regularity.