The Royals are 17-23 but a mere 4 1/2 games out of first place in the accommodating American League Central after their 5-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium.
A 10-day road trip looms, as do personnel decisions.
So, it’s the day-in, day-out journey of the season that absorbs Royals manager Ned Yost, and trivialities like the peculiar and uninspiring Royals record for home runs in a season aren’t of much interest to him.
“On my list of what I care about,” he said, “it’s pretty far down there.”
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But, hey, the rest of us can indulge the thought of the mini-drama within the real story: the prospect of Mike Moustakas eclipsing the club homer mark of 36 in a season set by Steve Balboni in 1985, a notion reinforced against the Yankees when Moustakas hit his 10th of the season to stay on pace.
Even if it’s mostly a cosmetic point, even if it has a lot to do with the cavernous confines of Kauffman, this just isn’t a good look on the Royals — who need to be liberated from this stigma.
Moustakas’ latest entry in defying history defied nature itself.
Swirling winds blew in from right field when Moustakas cracked a ball in the fifth inning that instantly sounded like a home run and was on trajectory to be a tape-measure blast … only to get so stranded in the air along the way that outfielder Aaron Judge made a stab at it before it cleared the fence at 391 feet.
“I knew I hit it pretty good, but when I saw him going back and climbing the fence, I got a little nervous,” Moustakas said.
Now, Balboni doesn’t quite need to get nervous yet … if losing the record would even mean that much to him.
As Balboni told The Star’s Pete Grathoff in 2013, “It’s 36 home runs. I don’t feel like it’s anything special.”
To his point, it’s so remarkably pedestrian and borderline embarrassing as to need to be broken.
Cases in point, as Pete recently researched: The individual single-season record for 19 teams is 50 or more, and the Royals are the only one with a best below 40 among the 30 Major League Baseball teams.
Moustakas, out injured most of last season, now has hit 32 in his last 133 games since the 2015 All-Star Game.
He’s vaguely aware of the Balboni record — “I think it’s, like, 36, or something, right, something like that?” — but it’s certainly not something he consciously thinks of, naturally.
Even in any given at-bat.
Perhaps once in the major leagues, he said late Thursday, he went to the plate thinking home run and “actually maybe” hit one.
“I’m not looking to try to do too much (that way),” he said. “... It doesn’t really work out.”
When it does work out, it’s usually like it was Thursday: Moustakas was looking for a slider, and it was left up in the zone and he put a good swing on it.
That transformed a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 buffer, allowing Danny Duffy to attack even more on a night he’d pitch seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, giving the Royals some pivotal space when Kelvin Herrera ran into trouble in the ninth.
“To be able to put three runs on the board with one swing is huge, just huge,” Yost said, calling it “extreme breathing room.”
Even if Yost isn’t going to hold his breath over how many more are to come, here’s hoping the end of an era is soon approaching.