The Kansas City Royals swept the White Sox over the weekend to move into a tie with the Tamp Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card standings.

It was a long, slow process, but the Kansas City Royals broke through to post a winning record in 2013 after nine consecutive losing seasons. The following season, the Royals captured an American League Wild Card spot and parlayed their first trip to the postseason in 29 years into an AL Pennant before losing Game 7 of the World Series. In 2015, the club put it all together and won its first World Championship in three decades.

Though the Royals fell to 81-81 in 2016, the club entered 2017 with high hopes. With a roster than included a handful of impending free agents – many of whom were key pieces of the steady rise the franchise made over the last decade, such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain – it appeared this year would be Kansas City’s last shot at making it back to the postseason with its largely homegrown core roster.

Unfortunately the team stumbled out of the gates, posting a 7-16 record in April. Still eight games under .500 in May, fans and writers were already mentally breaking down the Royals roster, selling off parts for prospects to prepare for another long rebuild.

But instead of folding, the Royals turned their season around in June, and finished the month 39-39 – just 3.5 games back in the AL Central. And through the first three weeks of July, following a weekend sweep of the Chicago White Sox with the trade deadline looming, the Royals clawed all the way back into a tie for the second spot in the AL Wild Card standings.

American League Division Leaders

AL East

Boston Red Sox (55-45, .550)

Dustin Pedroia posted a .360/.429/.680 slash with two home runs and a team leading six RBI in six games for the Red Sox last week. Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz were practically unhittable in their starts during the week, combining for 12.2 innings in which opponents scored just one unearned run on seven hits.

Boston posted a 3-4 record for the week, having split a four-game series at home against the Blue Jays and losing the last two of a three-game set in Anaheim against the Angels.

AL Central

Cleveland Indians (51-45, .531)

Danny Salazar returned from a six-week stint on the disabled list, and tossed seven one-hit innings Saturday against the Blue Jays. Salazar struck out eight without a walk, but got a no-decision in the 2-1 walk-off win after Francisco Lindor hit a game-winning home runs in the 10th inning.

Corey Kluber followed with 14 strikeouts in 7.2 innings Sunday in a win. Kluber allowed one run (a solo homer) and two walks to improve to 8-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 108.1 innings this season.

AL West

Houston Astros (65-33, .663)

Though the Astros had just a .500 week, Houston still holds a 17-game lead in the AL West, which is the largest division lead in baseball by a five-game margin. Jose Altuve remained red hot at the plate with 13 hits in six games, including a home run and five RBI. Evan Gattis and Yuli Gurriel homered twice, and 10 Astros hit home runs over the course of the week.

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