MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Royals nearly unbeatable at Kauffman

Royals nearly unbeatable at Kauffman

KANSAS CITY -- The rest of Major League Baseball has limited options on this issue, but the available evidence says that it is advisable to play the Kansas City Royals anywhere but Kauffman Stadium.

With a 16-5 romp over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night, the Royals are now 24-8 at home, a .750 winning percentage. This is the best home record in the American League and it ties the Chicago Cubs for the best home record in the Majors.

A balanced account of the Royals season requires an accompanying mention that, on the flip side, they are 13-23 on the road, which is the worst mark in the AL. The Royals regard this as a temporary condition, sort of like a summer cold.

But, these are the defending World Series champions, and though they have had some noticeable ups and downs this season, they are merely 1/2 game out of first place in the AL Central.

Apart from the fact that this is a team good enough to win two AL pennants in a row, what makes the home-field advantage so large for the Royals?

"We're comfortable here," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "(General manager) Dayton (Moore) built this club for this stadium, so there's a bit of a home-field advantage with our athleticism, our ability to play defense.

"We enjoy playing in front of our fans. They bring a lot of energy. They bring a lot of excitement. You don't really hear it as much as you feel it, which helps you maintain your energy.

"I think everybody tries to use their home park as a home-field advantage. But Dayton was smart; he saw how big the gaps were and how big the outfield was in terms of real estate. He knew we needed athletic guys who could go get the baseball.

"He knew that we could get away with fly-ball pitchers more than you could in a small ballpark. We didn't focus on ground-ball guys; we just focused on the right guy. It's all part of it.

"It's a good team. We were a good team last year on the road. We haven't been this year, but we will be."

Last year, the Royals had a much more normal home/road split. They were 51-30 at home, and 44-37 on the road, on their way to a 95-67 record, best in the league, good enough to win the AL Central by 12 games.

"We're built for this park, really," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "If you throw in a lot of the young guys who have come up, they're really athletic, really fast. And then you put our pitching in this park, and our bullpen in this park, it makes for a tough matchup for opposing teams. We're just built for this park.

"We haven't played good on the road this year, but there's always that little extra motivation here, because we're playing in front of 35,000 people. The energy and the atmosphere are terrific. So when times are tough and we're kind of slumping around the fans just pick you up and get you amped up all over again."

You saw and heard exactly what Yost and Hosmer were talking about Saturday night. A sellout crowd of 38,480 repeatedly roared its approval as the Royals dismantled the Detroit bullpen for the second straight night.

But this fan base also responds with high decibel levels for the calling cards of this team; outstanding defensive work and superior pitching performances. There is momentum available here and the Royals have latched onto it 75 percent of the time this season.

The Royals have been a more mercurial group this year than they were in 2015, which accounts for their position in a division race as opposed to atop a division race. Since May 27, they won six straight at home, then dropped eight in a row on the road. They then won the last two games of a road trip and came home to take five of the last six.

The best home season in modern baseball history was produced by the 1932 New York Yankees. Those Bronx Bombers were 62-15, an .805 winning percentage at home, part of an overall 107-47 record. They encored with a World Series sweep against the Cubs.

Neither the Royals, nor anybody else in the contemporary game is likely to reach that sort of record. This is, after all, the age of parity.

But the Royals can put up what amounts to a dominant home record this season. And then improvement to becoming roughly a .500 team on the road would put them back into the postseason with a chance at their third straight World Series.

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