None of us expected this before the season began, but with three weeks remaining, the Tigers are looking up at the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central standings. Tonight, the Royals come to Comerica Park for a pivotal three game series that could go a long way in deciding how the division shakes out. In order to get a little more info on the Royals, we spoke with Max Rieper of Royals Review. You can see my answers to Max's questions over here.
1. The Tigers made a surprising run to the playoffs in 2006, and baseball has been a lot more fun in Detroit ever since. First, what has this year's run for the Royals been like? And do you think that this is something they can sustain into the next few years?
It has been a fun ride, but I think all of Kansas City is still wary that the bottom could drop out at any moment. We hold many scars from twenty years of bad baseball. If we are somehow to make the playoffs, this city will celebrate like it hasn't celebrated in a really long time.
I think there are doubts, particularly among our community, that this is at all sustainable. The team has been very lucky to bunch its hits together in clutch situations. Not many teams finish dead last in home runs and walks and have much success. James Shields is certainly gone next year, Billy Butler is probably gone, and the team will probably deal either Greg Holland or Wade Davis. The upper minors are pretty barren, so aside from 2014 first-round pick Brandon Finnegan (who is already in the big leagues), we shouldn't expect much help internally. Plus you figure the Tigers won't be "down" for long, and the rest of the division looks like it will improve. And like I said, we still carry a lot of scars. And the Royals play in the "Show Me State."
2. How big of a blow is the loss of Danny Duffy, who left Saturday's game after just one pitch with a shoulder injury?
When you have an offense that struggles to score runs as much as the Royals do, they really have little margin for error on the pitching side. Duffy has been a treat to watch this year, especially since he seems to defy the BABIP odds and has enjoyed greater success this year despite lowering his strikeout rates. But this club has precious little depth, and can little afford to lose a guy like Duffy. Liam Hendriks was picked up in July and he had a really nice spot start last week, but with a career ERA over six, I don't think anyone expects he can duplicate that effort down the stretch for the Royals.
3. Royals fans were ready to run Dayton Moore and Ned Yost out of town prior to this season (and likely during this season, at times), but cries for their respective firings seem to have quieted. Do they deserve to come back in 2015?
Yea, there is no doubt they deserve to come back next year, and I say that as someone who is not much of a fan of theirs overall. Dayton Moore will certainly be in the running for Executive of the Year, and Ned Yost will probably receive votes for Manager of the Year - which is really stunning for me to say. We can quibble with Dayton's process and how sustainable it is, but if they win 86+ games in back-to-back years in Kansas City, they can probably both feel comfortable buying a home in Kansas City.
4. The Royals will win this series if...
If Justin Verlander is still broken. If Eric Hosmer and/or Billy Butler start hitting. If Greg Holland gets healthy. If the Royals continue to sprinkle the pixie dust that has fueled their magical run the last month.
5. The Royals will lose this series if...
If Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas can't keep the ball in the ballpark. If the bullpen starts to show signs of fatigue. If the Royals hacktastic ways means they never get into the Tigers bullpen.
Once again, a big thank you to Max for answering our questions, even if we want his team to kick rocks starting tonight. Be sure to click over and see my answers to his questions here, and check out Royals Review for all things Royals for the rest of the season!