Limping into the week after five losses in seven games, the Kansas City Royals hold a slim lead over the Rays in the American League Wild Card standings.
This time last week, we discussed how the red-hot Royals exploded onto the scene in the American League Wild Card race, winning nine games in a row and 10 of 11 to build a 2.5-game lead over the competition for final postseason slot. One week later, the Royals sit in the same spot in the AL Wild Card standings, but their lead is a paper-thin half-game over the Tampa Bay Rays, with the Mariners, Orioles and Angels closing quickly.
There were bright spots last week, including eight terrific innings from Jake Junis, two solid starts from Danny Duffy, and good work at the plate from Lorenzo Cain and Melky Cabrera, but the Royals were swept in three games in Baltimore to begin the week, and returned home to split a four-game series with Seattle over the weekend. Losing five of seven games against two of the top contenders in the race was a huge missed opportunity.
To make matters worse, the Royals placed All-Star catcher Salvador Perez on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his chest. Perez is expected to be on the shelf for roughly two weeks. During that time, the Royals must embark on an eight-game road trip to St. Louis, Chicago and Oakland, and return to face the AL Central division leading Cleveland Indians, and the NL Wild Card leaders, the Colorado Rockies, at Kauffman Stadium.
In other words, it’s very bad timing for K.C. to lose one of its best players.
American League Division Leaders
Boston Red Sox (63-49, .563)
Several Red Sox have been hot at the plate recently. New acquisition Eduardo Nunez led the club with 11 hits and nine RBI in six games last week, and tied for the team lead with four doubles. He was one of three Boston hitters to homer twice (along with Chris Young and Mitch Moreland) and was one of seven players to post a better than .300 batting average for the week.
Doug Fister made two strong starts for the Red Sox, going 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings. Fister struck out 12 and scattered 13 hits. Drew Pomeranz allowed just one run on seven hits and one walk in 6.1 innings. He struck out eight.
Cleveland Indians (59-50, .541)
Corey Kluber was at it again for the Tribe. Kluber allowed just one run on three hits and one walk in a complete game victory over the Yankees Thursday. The right-hander struck out 11 in the win, and is now 9-3 with a 2.77 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 123.2 innings spread across 18 starts.
Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar were also terrific on the mound for Cleveland last week. Both Bauer and Salazar allowed one earned runs in seven innings. Bauer struck out seven and scattered seven hits. Salazar struck out 12 and surrendered four hits.
Houston Astros (71-40, .640)
Jose Altuve has gained momentum in the AL MVP race, but several lesser known Astros led Houston at the plate last week. Tyler White homered three times in his last two games, and drove in six runs in the process (and eight for the week). Alex Bregman led the club with nine RBI in seven games, while Yuli Gurriel paced the team with 10 hits.