After a well timed, from a both a physical and mental aspect, off-day yesterday, the Royals embark on a 13 games in 13 days stretch. Ten of those contests come at home and only four are against a team with a winning record.
As you likely all know, the Royals open up with three in Detroit tonight against a team that just traded David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes and is still without Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers have lost 13 of their last 20 games to fall three games under .500. This is not the Tigers that we are used to facing, but it does not mean the Royals should glide into Detroit and think they can just show up and win. This is a chance for Kansas City to run away and hide from not just the AL Central, but the American League.
While the Royals get six with the Tigers, four with the White Sox (a .500 team the last 20 games) and four with the Angels (who have lost 8 of 10), the Twins intersperse two series with Cleveland with Toronto and Texas and then go on the road to play New York and Baltimore. When the Twins are on the East Coast, your Royals will also go on the road, but to Cincinnati and Boston. Between taking care of business themselves against Detroit and Chicago and what Minnesota has in front of them, Kansas City could truly end any slim division hopes for the other teams in the Central.
Winning the division, however, is not the target. Having the best record in the league gives the Royals a little extra post-season edge.
They can put the Angels in a hole just by virtue of winning three of four in Kansas City, but the Angels also have Baltimore and Toronto on the horizon. Speaking of Toronto, six of their next twelve are against the Yankees and those two teams have 13 games remaining between themselves. Baltimore plays New York and Toronto six times each the rest of way. I think all three of those teams are good, likely good enough to beat each other up enough to keep any one of them from piling up a bunch wins.
Then there is Houston (who’d of thought?) who has Texas, the Giants, the Dodgers and the Yankees between now and the end of August. I like the Royals’ August schedule better than any of the other contenders, even there is just one more off-day between now and August 31st.
Going out a little further, the Royals have seven games with Baltimore and six with Minnesota. As it stands right now, those 13 games and the four with the Angels referenced above are the ONLY games that Kansas City plays against teams with winning records for the rest of the year. Quite frankly, if Kansas City does not end up with the best record in the league and home field advantage throughout the playoffs it will be entirely their own fault. It probably should not even be a contest and it might be worthy goal to keep the team focused on playing good baseball.
None of the above, however, should keep Ned Yost from liberally resting the struggling Salvador Perez or from at least entertaining the idea of playing Ben Zobrist and Jarrod Dyson more in place of Omar Infante. Just because the Royals are twenty games over .500 and cruising does not mean that a shuffle of the batting order (basically unchanged since Opening Day) might be warranted. Taking a chance with a two or three run lead late and not going to HDH on consecutive days for a while might be worth it as well.
It will be a delicate dance for the Royals – one they have not been in a position to try since the early eighties – as they try to simultaneously keep the team fresh and sharp.