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A look back at the 2015 Royals regular season: Part deux

Trade deadline excitement and UCL tears defined the Royals' second half as they went on to capture top spot in the American League.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our look back at the regular season. Part one, covering April through June, is here.

July - Post All-Star break: Trade deadline buyers

The second half of July was an exciting time for Royals fans. After years of selling, or standing pat, at the trade deadline, Moore pushed his chips to the center of the table and brought in Cinncinatti Reds' ace Johnny Cueto for three of the clubs best young left-handers. Alex Gordon's injury turned out to have a silver lining when Moore sent Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks to the Oakland Athletics for Ben Zobrist. Zobrist's versatility matched the Royals' needs perfectly, as he could to play left field until Gordon's return when he would move to second to take Omar Infante's place.

July ended with Cueto's first start as a Royal, in Toronto. Cueto was staked to a 3-0 lead before even throwing a pitch and went six quality innings before the bullpen gave the game away in the final third.

Another of Moore's transactions bore fruit in late July, as the team activated Kris Medlen who joined the bullpen following his second Tommy John surgery. He and Vargas, it turns out, would be ships passing in the night, as no sooner than the Royals activated Jason Vargas from the disabled list, he was lost again with what would wind up not being the most significant UCL related news of the season.

Injuries after the break:

Jason Vargastorn UCL, July 22

MLB debuts:


August: Dog day domination

The Royals got back into their roots early in August by trading words, and then tweets, after the benches cleared against the Toronto Blue Jays. Josh Donaldson was hit twice and the benches warned, before noted punk Aaron Sanchez threw at Alcides Escobar and missed before hitting him.

Following the incident, Yordano lit the CEO of the Blue Jays whining department, Jose Bautista, up on Twitter but quickly apologized and buried the hatchet.

In August, the Royals finally moved Jeremy Guthrie to the bullpen and promoted Kris Medlen to the starting rotation. This is around the time the Troubles began for Cueto. He allowed 7 runs in Fenway on August 21 which he chased with 6 runs at home against the Orioles on August 26th.

Moore's other recent acquisition, Ben Zobrist, was the best player on the field that month, hitting 4 HR and posting a wRC+ of 169. Yost and the boys went 19-9 in August, including series sweeps against the White Sox and Angels. Moore continued to improve the roster, trading for another Jonny -- this time Gomes -- and signing Joba Chamberlain and Wandy Rodrigez to minor league deals.



MLB debuts:


September/October: Late season swoon

The Royals entered September, the division all but won with a lead of 13 games. This saved the fan base from melting down as the Royals went 11-17 in September, the only month that they played below .500 all season.

Amidst the slump the Troubles continued. After getting torched for 8 runs in 6.1 innings against the Orioles, Cueto finally opened up to the team, letting them know that he prefers a lower target. Sal accommodated Cueto's request and he rebounded, posting a 3.24 ERA over his final 25 innings of the season. On September 24th, it was Cueto who earned the win against the Mariners as the Royals clinched the AL Central, holding Robinson Cano and company to just three runs over seven innings and earning the win.

Ventura was one of the few Royals pitchers who didn't struggle down the stretch. He struck out 11 twice, and finished September/October with a strikeout rate of 26 percent and was one of only 20 pitchers to post a sub 3.00 FIP over that span. It was enough to earn him the Game 1 start in the ALDS. Quite the transformation for a player who had been demoted just two months earlier.

On offense, Mike Moustakas set a new franchise record with his 9 RBI night on September 12 against Baltimore and then offered a touching reflection of his mother following her passing.

Less than a week later, Omar Infante crammed nearly his entire season's offensive production into a single game and threatened Moose's new record plating 7 runs against Cleveland, just the infamous triple shy of the cycle. Holland converted the save. It was the 145th of his career.

Holland appeared again the next evening, this time in the 12th against the Tigers to protect a one run lead. For the second consecutive appearance, he could barely hit 90 mph. He lost what may be his last game with the Royals, retiring only two batters before giving up a game winning line drive single to pinch hitter Dixon Machado. Concerns over his velocity were substantiated when the club revealed that he had been pitching with a partially torn UCL for the past year, including the 2014 playoff runHolland underwent Tommy John surgery, putting his future with the Royals in jeopardy.

After a frustrating month that left the Royals bruised, if not broken, the team ended the season on a high note, surging into the playoffs by winning their last five games, including a sweep of the Twins that eliminated the surprise Wild Card contender from the postseason. The sweep also gave the Royals the best record in the American League (95-67) affording them the opportunity of facing the winner of the Wild Card game rather than the AL West Champion Texas Rangers.


Wade Davisshoulder, September 12

Salvador Perezbruised knee, September 23

Greg Hollandtorn UCL, September 24

Lorenzo Cainright knee contusion, September 30

Alex RiosBack, October 1

MLB debuts:

Miguel Almonte, September 1

Scott Alexander, September 2

Final Thoughts

In a season with far more ups than downs, the Royals obliterated the projections and spent the final 164 days of the season leading their division. Last year, the Royals snapped their league leading streak of futility. This year, they've started a new streak by qualifying for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.