Yost to manage final week with FAs in mind

Yost to manage final week with FAs in mind

NEW YORK -- There were so many good days, so many good times.

Now, as the Royals head home for a homestand that could feel like the end of an era, they don't want things to be different. They realize where they stand, six games out of the second American League Wild Card spot with six games to play, after Monday's 11-3 loss to the Yankees. They realize what could happen, with a long list of key free agents who could be elsewhere next season.

They'd love to provide the Kauffman Stadium fans with a few more thrills.

"It'd be awesome to hit a couple more home runs," said third baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit his 38th of the season Monday. "Just do what we've always done since we've been Royals."

Moustakas is one of the free agents with an uncertain future. First baseman Eric Hosmer, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar are also on that list. They went to the World Series together in 2014. They went back the next year and won it all.

"It was a good run, obviously," Moustakas said.

They hoped to extend it with another trip to the postseason this season, but the 4-7 trip that ended with Monday's loss left the Royals on the verge of elimination. Now they have six games remaining, all at Kauffman Stadium, starting Tuesday night against the Tigers. Left-hander Jason Vargas, yet another of the Royals' pending free agents, will start that game looking to become the franchise's first 18-game winner since Kevin Appier in 1993.

It's far from certain that all the free agents will leave, but manager Ned Yost acknowledged Monday that the possibility any of them could leave will make this homestand feel a little different. If these are the final games Hosmer, Moustakas and others play as Royals, Yost wants to make sure the fans get a few last chances to watch and cheer players who have brought good times to the city.

"You're definitely aware of the possibility that could happen," Yost said. "These guys have been going so hard this year and they're all beat down. You would really like to just give them a couple days off, but it's hard to do because our fans are going to want to see them.

"We'll pick spots and give them a day off -- but multiple days off, probably not. We'll just try to balance it so they get a bit of a break but it doesn't take away from giving our fans a chance to see them play."

One guy who won't get a day off is Escobar, the shortstop who played all 162 games in 2016 and will almost certainly do so again. Escobar made his 327th consecutive start Monday, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues. He also played all 162 games in '14 before missing 14 games the following year.

"I like to play," Escobar said. "I want to play, man, a lot."

As he closes in on playing 162 for the third time in four years, Escobar said he can't imagine anyone playing every game for 16 straight seasons, as Cal Ripken Jr. did.

"Wow, that's unbelievable," Escobar said. "Nobody can catch that."

What Escobar has done is impressive enough. Reds first baseman Joey Votto, Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis and Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor are the only other Major League players who have appeared in every game this season.

Most players get days off whether they want them or not. But Escobar long ago proved to Yost that he doesn't need them. Even with all the work, Escobar has hit better this month (.341 batting average) than he has all season. His second-half average of .283 is much better than his .226 mark from the first half.

"He loves to play every day," Yost said. "He's got the body type that doesn't wear down. Did he tail off in the second half? No, he got markedly better. He's got the mindset and the body that he can do it."

Other Royals have played a lot, too. Hosmer has missed just one game, while Cain played in his 150th game Monday. They'll play more this week at Kauffman Stadium. Yost believes the fans deserve to see them.

And maybe they'll see a little more history. Moustakas already owns the Royals franchise record for home runs in a season, having eclipsed Steve Balboni's 32-year-old record last week. With 38 homers, he has matched Bob Cerv for the most ever by a player for a Kansas City team. Cerv hit 38 for the 1958 Kansas City A's.

It's one more number, one more moment to add to all the others Moustakas has had since the Royals made him the second overall pick in the 2007 Draft. He'd love to have one more moment at Kauffman Stadium this week. They all would.

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York and covered the Royals on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.