Could This be the Year the Royals Return to the Postseason?

Billy Butler Sal Perez
Billy Butler has been heating up at the right time. (Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

The American League Central was over when the Tigers traded for David Price, right?

Wrong.

With their 5-0 victory over the Giants tonight, the Royals have, albeit quietly, improved to 62-53 on the season and are only 1.5 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central. The team also holds a half game lead over the Mariners for the second wild card spot. The team came out of the All-Star break 0-4, but have been the hottest team in baseball since, going 14-3 in that stretch, including six straight wins.

The offense seems to have picked up the pace as a group since the team lost first basemen Eric Hosmer to a fracture in his right hand. Billy Butler, who is usually the team’s DH, has been playing serviceable first base in Hosmer’s absence. Butler has also seen his offensive production improve, slashing .309/.347/.559 since the All-Star break and hitting .423 in August. All-Star left fielder Alex Gordon has also stepped up in the second half, posting a .312/.372/.442 slash line since the break.

The rotation has been steady all season, but the best pitcher, (again, albeit quietly,) has been left-hander Danny Duffy, who was a 1.74 ERA over his last ten starts and his 2.39 season ERA would rank third in the American League and sixth in baseball had he have enough innings to qualify (he started the season in the bullpen to limit his innings).

The bullpen has been lights-out with the top eight-nine combination in the game. Set-up man Wade Davis has posted a 0.91 ERA (yes. you read that right) with 75 strikeouts and 24 hits over 49.1 innings. He did not allow his first extra base hit of the season until July 31st, a double to Twins’ catcher Kurt Suzuki. It was his 44th appearance of the season.

Closer Greg Holland has been, well, vintage Greg Holland. He leads the American League with 33 saves, has a 1.81 ERA and has recorded 67 strikeouts in 44.2 innings. Seventh inning man Kelvin Herrera has also held his own this season, posting a 1.65 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 49 innings.

The pitching staff is excellent. The defense is top-notch. If the offense continues to put up producing (the team is 51-8 when they score at least four runs,) then this team has a very good chance of not only making the postseason for the first time since 1985, but taking the Central division away from the Tigers.

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