It was fun while it lasted, but the Kansas City Royals playoff hopes came to an end with Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Once again, the Royals offense went into a slump, not scoring a run since the 12th inning of Monday night’s 6-5 win.
The last few weeks, the Royals were one of five contenders vying for a Wild Card spot. They caught and passed the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, but they couldn’t gain ground on the Tampa Rays, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.
But the Royals didn’t give up. After they lost last Saturday’s game against the Rangers, they bounced back the next day with Justin Maxwell’s ninth inning grand slam off of former Royal All-Star Joakim Soria, giving the Royals a 4-0 victory. Then a four hour, 12 inning win the next day against the Mariners kept the Royals slim playoff hopes alive. But Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Mariners and an Indians walk-off home run win by Jason Giambi a few hours earlier hurt their playoff chances. Then Wednesday night’s loss and wins by Cleveland, Tampa and Texas put an end to the Royals playoff hopes.
It’s disappointing the Royals didn’t make the playoffs. But for the first time in almost a generation, the Royals looked like a credible Major League Baseball team. Finishing with a record above .500 for the first time since 2003 and being in the Wild Card hunt, the Royals gave hope to a long-suffering fan base that the team has turned a corner.
But there’s room for improvement. The offense is still weak and despite having five of six winning months, May’s dismal 8-20 record put the Royals in a hole they couldn’t get out of. With last month’s seven game losing streak and their recent critical losses to the Detroit Tigers and the Indians, the Royals doomed their chances of making the playoffs. Look at it this way: if the Royals went .500 in May with a 14-14 record, they would have an 89-69 record and be tied with the Rays in the Wild Card standings.
With an 83-75 record, the Royals have four games left against the Chicago White Sox. They need to win the series and finish with their best record since 1993, when they went 84-78. Their offseason focus will be improving the offense and rebuilding their starting rotation around James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie. They also need to maintain their good defense and bullpen.
Will this happen? With the Royals, it’s hard to say. In the past they’ve shown promise and then crashed and burned. If any team can mess it up, it’s the Royals. But they’re a better team than they were a couple of years ago. They were on their way to another losing season, but after the All-Star break they turned it around and for a while they made themselves into Wild Card contenders. They bounced back from many games and situations that would have doomed them in years past. The Royals have a ways to go, but their experience playing through the highs and the lows of 2013 should help them contend in 2014.