The Royals have a 12.1% chance to make the playoffs. Here’s how they could do it

Royals' playoff chances plunge after 10-18 record in August

The KC Royals playoff chances plunged after a month of August in which they went scoreless for 40-plus innings and finished 10-18.
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The KC Royals playoff chances plunged after a month of August in which they went scoreless for 40-plus innings and finished 10-18.

The Royals pounded the Detroit Tigers 13-2 on Wednesday, finishing an odd road trip with a 4-2 record. In a six-game span, Kansas City lost one game 17-0 in Minnesota and another 13-2 in Detroit. They still managed to win two series — including one against the Twins, who hold the second AL Wild Card spot — and gain two games in the postseason picture.

The Royals began Thursday 2  1/2 games out of the second wild card. Can the Royals shake off an injured and depleted starting rotation and make a final run for the playoffs? On Thursday morning, gave the Royals a 12.1 percent chance to play in the postseason. The odds are not in their favor.

According to FanGraphs’ projections, the Minnesota Twins are currently expected to win 83.3 games, while the Los Angeles Angels are expected to win 83.0. This is just an average win expectancy, though. So using that, we’ll say that the Royals likely require 84 victories to force a potential playoff for the second wild card, while they might need 85 to claim the spot outright.

In the next four days, they will face the Minnesota Twins four times. The path to an unlikely postseason appearance begins here. Here’s one way they could pull it off.

Sept. 7-10: Minnesota (three games)

What they need: 3-1

Updated record: 72-70

The Royals have a chance to make a significant move this weekend. Rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio starts Thursday night against Kyle Gibson, who has been pitching well. This is not ideal. Ian Kennedy will start opposite Ervin Santana on Friday. In the final two games of the series, Jose Berrios and Bartolo Colon will take the ball for the Twins.

Sept. 11-13: Chicago (three games)

What they need: 2-1

Updated record: 74-71

A sweep at home against the rebuilding White Sox would be ideal, of course. Chicago entered Thursday having lost seven of 10 and is playing out the string with a young roster. Still, the Royals’ inconsistent starting pitching hasn’t led to many opportunities for sweeps. The last came in late July at Detroit, at the tail end of a nine-game winning streak.

Sept. 14-17: At Cleveland (four games)

What they need: 2-2

Updated record: 76-73

The key here is to avoid getting wiped out. The Royals were swept in Cleveland in a three-game series in late August. The Indians have won 14 straight and have turned into the American League juggernaut they were expected to be. These are the toughest games left on the schedule. But to make some playoffs, some weird stuff will have to occur. So let’s say a split.

Sept. 19: At Toronto (three games)

What they need: 2-1

Updated record: 78-74

The Blue Jays are one of only two American League teams that have scored fewer runs than the Royals. (The White Sox are the other.) Perhaps Danny Duffy could return by this point?

Sept. 22-24: At Chicago (three games)

What they need: 2-1

Updated record: 80-75

Here, perhaps, is another opportunity for a sweep. They Royals would be happy with what would be, at this point, a sixth series win in seven tries.

Sept. 25: At New York (One game)

What they need: 0-1

Updated record: 80-76

The Royals will close out a grueling road trip with a quick jaunt to New York for a day game. Rough schedule.

Sept. 26-28: Detroit (three games)

What they need: 2-1

Updated record: 82-77

Take care of business against the Tigers at home, move five games over .500 entering the final series of the season.

Sept. 29-Oct. 1: Arizona (three games)

What they need: 2-1

Updated record: 84-78

Kansas City can be thankful it is not facing the red-hot Diamondbacks at the moment. By this point, Arizona will have racked up the first wild card spot in the National League and will be setting up its pitching staff for the NL Wild Card Game in Phoenix and a potential NL Division Series. Maybe that could help. Either way, the Royals need to win another series just to get to 84 wins.

The final analysis

And there we have it, a 19-11 finish to the season, (including the recent road trip) and eight series victories in nine tries (plus a makeup game in New York). Perhaps this shows how difficult the path would be. The Royals could make it easier on themselves with a couple of sweeps, perhaps off-setting a 1-3 trip to Cleveland or another series loss. But they are also currently fielding a starting rotation with Sam Gaviglio and Jason Vargas, who has posted an ERA over 8.00 in his last 11 starts.  

For now, there is little margin for error. The Royals likely need a record of 15-9 or 16-8 over their last 24 to give themselves a chance. Every loss makes the math more difficult.