Ball Star

So the Royals are toast (again), right? Well ...

Updated: 2013-09-16T16:07:12Z

By PETE GRATHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Are your legs tired?

You know, from jumping on and off the Royals bandwagon this season.

I kid, but the Royals have certainly taken their fans on a wild ride. They were written off after the May swoon. And again after that dreadful sweep in Cleveland before the All-Star break. And once more after the seven-game skid in August that featured a White Sox sweep at Kauffman Stadium.

And maybe the doubters are back after wasted opportunities resulted in a series loss at Detroit this past weekend.

However, dismiss the Royals at your own risk. They’ve been as resilient as Indiana Jones this season, and look around, the other contenders have their own issues.

To wit:

• The Orioles ended their series in Toronto just seven-for-30 (a .233 average) with runners in scoring position. It was the 12th time in 14 games they’ve had two hits or fewer in that situation.

“It’s hard to do,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters. “That’s why it takes the best players in the world to do it. They’ve done it a lot more times than they haven’t. It just gets magnified at this time of year.”

• The Rays coughed up another lead on Sunday and the bullpen has a 3.73 ERA (as opposed to 2.88 last year). One reason for the decline: they’re missing Wade Davis, who had a 2.43 ERA pitching out of the bullpen a year ago.

“We’ve had way too many missteps already this year. That’s what’s got us in this position,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said after the Twins rallied for a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. “We have played well enough to have a much better record. We haven’t closed the deal.”

• No team is worse off than the Rangers, who were swept in consecutive three-game home series and have lost five straight series overall.

“Just as quickly as it started, it can turn around,” general manager Jon Daniels said after Sunday’s loss. “It’s got to.”

Well, it doesn’t have to.

“As bad as we’ve played, we’re still in a good position to make the playoffs,” Daniels said.

• Things are also tough in New York. Sparkplug/accused cheater Alex Rodriguez joined the list of injured Yankees when he left Sunday’s game with a calf problem. Rodriguez is batting .280 with six homers in 35 games.

There won’t be a lot of rest days for any of the Yankees’ walking wounded.

“If they say they are able, I’m going to play them,” manager Joe Girardi told reporters. “I think you have to because you can’t take it for granted one game and say we’re not going to put what we feel is not the best team out there. You can’t do that at this time of year.”

• Then there are the Indians. Well, things look pretty good right now after a four-game sweep of the White Sox. What could damage Cleveland’s hopes? The Royals, of course. The Indians will open a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium tonight.

And with that, here is a look at the week ahead for the wild-card race contenders (as always the playoff odds are from Baseball Prospectus):

RANGERS (81-67)

• Playoff odds: 69.4 percent (last week: 89.8 percent)

• Last 10: 1-9

• Who’s hot: Outfielder Alex Rios has hit .340 with three home runs and eight RBIs in September.

• This week: 4 at Rays, 3 at Royals

• Good for Royals: Third baseman Adrian Beltre is batting just .241 since Aug. 30.

• Bad for Royals: The Rangers have a major league-best 42-32 road record and they’ll be away from home all this week.

RAYS (81-67)

• Playoff odds: 78.6 percent (last week: 57.0 percent)

• Last 10: 4-6

• Who’s hot: Wil Myers is hitting .340 with three home runs this month.

• This week: 4 vs. Rangers, 3 vs. Orioles

• Good for Royals: The Rays are 38-47 against teams at .500 or better. They play 11 of their last 14 against teams with winning records.

• Bad for Royals: Tampa Bay is home all this week and it has a 45-28 record at Tropicana Field.

INDIANS (81-68, 0.5 GB)

• Playoff odds: 37.7 percent (last week: 32.5 percent)

• Last 10: 7-3

• Who’s hot: With 11 home runs since the All-Star break, Nick Swisher’s 11 home runs since the All-Star break are tied for the sixth most in the American League. He has five in his last 13 games.

• This week: 3 at Royals, 4 vs. Astros

• Good for Royals: Cleveland has 21 blown saves this season.

• Bad for Royals: The Indians have six home games left, all against the two worst teams in the American League. They play four games with the Astros (Sept. 19-22) and two games with the White Sox (Sept. 24-25).

ORIOLES (79-70, 2.5 GB)

• Playoff odds: 3.0 percent (last week: 17.2 percent)

• Last 10: 5-5

• Who’s hot: Shortstop J.J. Hardy has a slash line of .352/.407/.556 in September.

• This week: 3 at Red Sox, 3 at Rays

• Good for Royals: Set-up man Darren O’Day, a key part of the Orioles’ bullpen, has been troubled by soreness in his right index and middle fingers.

• Bad for Royals: Baltimore has the third-best ERA (3.38) in September.

YANKEES (79-71, 3 GB)

• Playoff odds: 6.9 percent (last week: 9.6 percent)

• Last 10: 4-6

• Who’s hot: Outfielder Alfonso Soriano has 15 home runs and 47 RBIs since joining the Yankees on July 26.

• This week: 3 at Blue Jays, 3 vs. Giants

• Good for Royals: Starter CC Sabathia has a 6.59 ERA in 12 starts dating to July 14 and opponents have hit .304 in that span.

• Bad for Royals: Nine of the Yankees’ final 12 games are against teams with a losing record.

ROYALS (78-71, 3.5 GB)

• Playoff odds: 4.6 percent (last week: 1.5 percent)

• Last 10: 6-4

• Who’s hot: Left fielder Alex Gordon is hitting .349 with four home runs and seven RBIs in his last 10 games.

• This week: 3 vs. Indians, 3 vs. Rangers

To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff

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