Defending world champion Royals struggle late in the season

A nine-game winning streak in Mid-August brought the Royals back into playoff contention, but a recent slump has the defending champs struggling to make up ground in the standings.

After an 8-5 win over the Yankees on August 29, the Royals (74-69) have gone just 5-7, putting them a full four games behind the second wild card spot and nine out in the AL Central.

Much of the blame for the Royals’ recent mediocrity — and indeed, their mediocrity throughout the season — falls on the club’s pitching staff, which has consistently struggled to win close games. Kansas City’s bullpen blew consecutive extra-inning matchups to the Yankees last month, and from September 2-4, the Tigers took two-out-of-three at Kauffman with late rallies against Wade Davis and Joakim Soria.

It was far from the first rough outing for Soria, who seems to have become the fans’ scapegoat for many of the team’s struggles.

On the season, the man formerly known as the mexecutioner is 4-8 with a 4.06 ERA, having accumulated a 1.44 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) through 62 innings. Those stats aren’t very strong for a right-hander owed $25 million over the next three years, especially when late-inning relief has been the backbone of the Royals’ success since 2014.

But it isn’t just pitching that has plagued the squad. Offense has also been a notable weakness.

As of September 13, the Royals have scored just 591 runs — good for 14th in the American League. Only the Oakland A’s have scored fewer, with 566.

Still, the Royals’ .262 team batting is solid, and if the Boys in Blue can just find a way to drive more runners in, they certainly have a chance at October. The issues holding them back are very clear; it’s simply a matter of whether or not they will be addressed.

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