From Rock Bottom to Playoff Contenders; A Story of Comeback Kings!

The Kansas City Royals finished the 2023 season dwelling at the bottom of the American League Central with a 56-106 record, tying a club record. Now the script has flipped completely. The Royals are well above the .500 line with forty wins in the near vicinity, a mark that the 23′ Royals didn’t reach until mid-August. The Royals look like a playoff-caliber team with a star-studded cast led by Bobby Witt Jr. One of the ingredients of building a playoff-ready team is the ability to come back when the team is down to the opposing club. In 2023, the common perception was that, unless the Royals were ahead early, it would likely be a loss. 

As previously mentioned, the script has been flipped. 

Kansas City has won four of their last five, a satisfactory result following a seven-game stretch that included only one win to finish off May. All four of those wins have been comeback wins, with two of them coming in the 9th inning.

On June 2nd, the Royals were hosting San Diego and were doing their best to avoid a sweep after the Padres took the first two. A sweep seemed all but certain through eight innings as Kansas City was left trailing 3-1. However, the script seemed to change at a rapid pace as a hectic sequence was capped off by a triple by Nelson Velazquez and then a sacrifice popout fly by Nick Loftin to bring in the winning run. The walk-off seemed to signal the end of the losing stretch and showed the potential of a young baseball club.

Fast forward to June 6th in a divisional matchup against Cleveland. Kansas City’s offense was held in check through five innings, with Cleveland’s pitching allowing only one run. But, once again, the Royals proved they have something special about them, piecing together three runs through the last four innings, including the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth, cementing another comeback win. 

The following day, Daniel Lynch IV was pounded early by the visiting Seattle Mariners, giving up seven runs in the first inning. He remained in the game and gave up another run in the top of the fourth. The Royals realized they couldn’t get all of it back in one swing, so they clawed back slowly. A four-run inning in the fourth, as well as a three-run inning in the sixth, gave the Royals a fighting chance. After Kansas City’s bullpen gave up one more run to bring Seattle’s total to nine, the Royals stared at a two-run deficit. A mountain that seemed so much smaller than the one they stared at in the fourth inning when they were down by eight. The theme continued. A series of events occurred including a scored run and then a Bobby Witt Jr. triple that brought in the tying run. Nelson Velazquez did his job and hit into a fielder’s choice, walking it off for the Royals once again. Witt was the one to run in for the winning run, an appropriate ending for the young superstar. 

On June 8th, the recurring theme seemed to come to an end when the Royals gave up their slim lead after a Mitch Garver home run and a J.P. Crawford two-RBI single. Yet, again the Royals proved the doubters wrong. The offense pulled together for six runs through the final five innings and stormed to their 39th win.

While the clubhouse would prefer not to have to complete comebacks day after day, they will not complain about the special game stretch they have been able to create. This stretch should scare other teams, especially those in the American League who may face this team in the postseason.

Regardless if they are down or up, there’s one thing that the Royals are proving right now: “The boys are playing some ball”

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