MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Royals still on signature path to success

Royals still on signature path to success

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Royals are in a good place, and we're not talking about third in the AL Central.

That is just a transitional phase. They have won their last four series. They are the defending World Series champions, playing balanced, productive baseball. Their primary directions from here should be onward and upward.

You can disregard Wednesday's 7-5 loss to the Twins. It was an aberration. The Royals are 5-1 against Minnesota. You literally cannot win them all. Dillon Gee gave up three home runs and six runs (five earned) in four-plus innings. The rest of the Royals couldn't quite recover.

There was no trend forming here, no warning sign of imminent danger. It was just the Twins winning for the 12th time in 46 tries. They were, you know, due.

To briefly review the Royals' 2016 work, they began 12-6, then hit a late-April/early-May downturn, during which they went 4-12.

"For some reason, we've just struggled in May the last couple of years," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I don't know why.

"Usually, at the end of May we start to break out and do fine. It's been no different this year. We're starting to turn around our offense. We're swinging the bats much, much better."

The Royals have won eight of their last 12, including two out of three against the Red Sox and two out of three against the White Sox in Chicago. For Yost, this is the best baseball of the season for his club, because all phases of the Royals' game are up and running.

"Offensively, we've been swinging the bats better," Yost said Wednesday. "We've got guys hot. [Lorenzo] Cain's been real hot. Salvy [Salvador Perez] has been hot. [Paulo] Orlando has been hot, producing some offense for us."

Perez had a big week against the Twins. He had nine hits in the series, including four extra-base hits, and a career-high five hits in the opener. He has a 12-game hitting streak and is batting .432 during that stretch.

Orlando had six hits in the Minnesota series. He has a nine-game hitting streak during which he is htting .529.

This sort of thing serves to encourage the manager, and it should. When you think of the Royals' success, you think first of the bullpen and the defense. When you think of the Royals struggling, that generally has something to do with their offense. When they start to hit, things are fine with them, because the rest of the game is already covered.

"We started the year, we never really were on track much," Yost said. "We started out OK, but we were really kind of struggling a little bit. Hoz [Eric Hosmer] was kind of carrying us a little. We'd mix in some hits here and there, but Lorenzo wasn't swinging great, [Kendrys] Morales wasn't swinging great. But our pitching was pretty strong at that point.

"Then our pitching kind of took a step backwards, and there was not much offense, and that's where we ran into that little downward streak. But now the pitching's been back to normal. It's been good, and the offense has really picked up, so that's the reason for the turnaround."

The difference in the offense shows up in the Royals' work with runners in scoring position. Over the first 25 games of the season, the Royals hit .201 with runners in scoring position. Over the next 20 games, they hit .335 in those situations.

Two members of the projected starting rotation, Chris Young and Kris Medlen, are on the disabled list, along with Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon. So the Royals haven't been operating at full capacity.

But the signs of further success for this season are clearly visible. This group has already won everything. Repeating that feat is not a dream; it is a matter of keeping the established patterns of success in motion.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.