On one end, this past road trip could be seen as one to forget. After all, the Royals were going against three teams who were hovering toward the bottom of their respective divisions, and they ended up losing two of the three road series (Baltimore and Texas). In addition, the Royals are only 11-20, and only ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central due to the fact that the Tigers have played more games (and thus have more losses).
Considering all the challenges the Royals have faced this year, there were some positives on this road trip, especially in their series win against the Colorado Rockies. Even though the Royals blew a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Salvador Perez came through in the top of the ninth with a clutch two-RBI single to help swoop victory from the jaws of defeat for Kansas City (usually it’s the inverse).
The Royals were able to escape the road trip with a 4-5 record, which seems pretty incredible after they started off the trip by losing two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles.
Now, the Royals return home and prepare for a homestand against two of the division favorites: the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins.
While the Royals most likely will finish behind the White Sox and Twins in the Central standings by the end of this season, this will be a crucial homestand for the Royals, especially if they hope to build momentum when it comes to moving up the standings this season. It could also be an essential series for Royals management to determine which players will be part of this team going forward, whether it’s the year or beyond.
Therefore, let’s look at the respective games against the White Sox and Twins, and what Royals fans should be paying attention to over this eight-game stretch.
Will White Sox or Royals Turn Things Around?
Both the Royals and White Sox have been disappointing to begin the 2022 season. Royals fans are well aware of the Royals’ struggles through their first 31 games, but White Sox fans have been also quite vocal, especially after cruising to a division title in 2021.
The White Sox are currently 16-17, fresh off a series-ending loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field. They are currently three games behind first-place Minnesota Twins in the Central division, and White Sox fans are probably as restless, if not more so than Royals fans on Twitter.
The White Sox certainly have the opportunity to break out and use this series against the Royals as a catapult to turning their season around. Tim Anderson and Luis Robert continue to be productive hitters in the lineup, and Andrew Vaughn also has showcased that potential, when he is healthy.
On a pitching end, Dylan Cease has become a borderline All-Star, as he has struck out 58 batters in 38 innings of work this year. In addition, Michael Kopech has seemed to transition to the rotation from the bullpen well in 2022, though he was far from sharp against the Yankees today.
Unfortunately, while the Sox have shown shades of the team that they were in 2021, they also have disappointed more often than not in 2022, which shows in their sub-.500 record.
Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal have gone through serious regressions at the plate as they are hitting .203 and .167, respectively. The starting pitching has either been hurt (Lance Lynn), affected by COVID (Lucas Giolito) or has struggled with consistency (Vince Velasquez and Dallas Keuchel). And the bullpen, which was supposed to be a strength of this club in 2022, hasn’t quite been the best either, as the White Sox rank 22nd in reliever ERA.
This will be Chicago’s first visit to Kauffman Stadium this year, and they will play five games, including a doubleheader on Tuesday to make up for their canceled game on April 4th due to the lockout. The White Sox are hoping that a strong series against the Royals in Kansas City could get them back on the winning end of things, and perhaps get them ready to get some revenge on the Yankees as they visit the Bronx after their five-game visit in KC.
That being said, a series win by the Royals could not only get Kansas City back in the right direction but also further send the White Sox into a tailspin into June.
Which would open things up in the Central division even more.
Can the Royals Continue Their Success Against the Twins at the K?
The Royals played the Twins earlier this year and took two out of three at Kauffman, and could’ve easily swept the series. After the Royals’ series win over Minnesota, the Royals were sitting at 5-6 and seemed to have some momentum as they prepared for their road trip on April 22nd.
Unfortunately, the Royals have gone 6-14 since that Twins series, and the Twins have surged to the top of the division in the same time span, as they are currently 20-15. Minnesota is also fresh off a series win over the Cleveland Guardians, which helped the Twins further the distance between other division clubs.
The Twins may be the most complete team in the division, as they have a mix of homegrown talent, as well as veteran stars. However, while on paper the Twins are probably one of the AL Central’s best, they have struggled to stay healthy all at one time this year.
In the Royals’ home series against the Twins back in April, Byron Buxton didn’t play at all at Kauffman. It is also expected that Carlos Correa won’t play against the Royals, as he is currently on the 10-Day IL. Lastly, the Twins will be without Miguel Sano, who’s done for the season due to a knee injury, and Kyle Garlick and Trevor Larnach, who also have been recently put on the 10-Day IL.
The Twins pitching staff does return Bailey Ober, which gives them some much-needed starting rotation depth. In addition, Joe Ryan and Josh Windner are posting sub-three ERA marks, and Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, and Devin Smeltzer have shown flashes of quality pitching, though it has not been as consistent as Ryan and Windner. The bullpen has been a strength of the Twins, as they rank 6th in reliever ERA, and have been primarily led by Emilio Pagan and Jhoan Duran, who have been strikeout machines in the late innings.
It will not be the same Twins team that the Royals face at Kauffman back in late April. This is a Twins team that is gelling and surging and seems to be solidified on the pitching and hitting end, even with the nagging injuries they are facing at a couple of key positions.
Yes, the Royals have been successful this year against Minnesota overall. But the weekend series against the Twins could sink the Royals’ hopes for June and beyond, especially if the Royals can’t stop this surging Twins lineup and pitching staff.
However, if the Royals surprise, and take two out of three from the Twins?
Well…maybe things will be getting better sooner than Royals fans may think.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images