It took almost two weeks and a dozen games, but the Royals finally shook loose from the shackles of demoralizing consecutive losses and rediscovered what it's like to win, again. How long they'll be able to hold on to this elusive feeling is anyone's guess, but it sure feels good at the moment.
There are a number of things plaguing the Royals at this very early stage of the 2012 season, not the least of which is the onerous numbers themselves. In winning the second game of a three-game series in Cleveland, Kansas City not only won for the first time in five games this season against the Indians, but more importantly snapped a near record-setting 12-game losing streak, tying the third longest winless skid in franchise history.
It's a giant relief, for sure - for the fans and probably even more so for the Royals' players themselves. Their 4-14 record doesn't show it, but this is a much better team than the early won-loss numbers indicate. As hard as it is to do, the Royals need to put their horrendous start, which included a record-setting 10 consecutive losses at home to open what was supposed to be a breakout year for this talented, young group of Royals, behind them and focus on what lies ahead and playing sound, fundamental baseball.
"I'm just glad we did it," Royals' manager Ned Yost said in his postgame briefing with reporters. "I don't care how we did it. That's a big monkey off our backs. Now we can get back to focusing on day-to-day stuff. We don't have to worry about the streak anymore."
Royals' left-fielder Alex Gordon echoed his manager's thoughts: "It's good to get this out of the way but, even after a loss, we always say we're going to win the next one. That's what we want to do now."
As wonderful as it is to contemplate, the Boys in Blue are not going to get it all back all at once. It's not likely that Kansas City, or any team, is going to rebound from a double-digit losing string by running off an equally long string of victories. The reality is, when the Royals do start playing up to their potential - and they're going to have to do it as a team - they're going to have to accept the fact that winning at the big-league level in baseball is not an all or nothing proposition.
Even the best teams in the game are going to win no more than 60 percent of the time, based on the historical numbers. As a matter of perspective, the current season is still very young. If a team encounters something like this, it's probably better happening early than late, when your fate may already be sealed.
There's still plenty of time to get things turned around and for the Royals to have what would be considered a successful season, given the recent past. For this to happen, however, the team is going to have to improve in about every area, but particularly when it comes to pitching, which has really become old hat with the Royals.
Every team is going to go through one or more periods during the season when consecutive losses begin to string out and wins are hard to come by. The challenge is to minimize those times and avoid lengthy losing streaks like the one Kansas City just encountered. If you can do that, the wins will eventually come, and if you are fortunate enough to win two out of every three games, you're most likely going to be playing in the postseason.
Winning two out of three games is a stretch for all but the most elite teams in the major leagues in any given year. Kansas City's 4-14 mark currently is the worst record in Major League Baseball. Were they to get on some torrid and almost miraculous streak from here on out and, say, win two-thirds of their remaining 144 games this season, they would end up with a regular-season record of 100-62. We all know that's not going to happen. On the other hand, and what should concern Royals' fans is that this is perilously more realistic, if Kansas City were to come out victorious only once out of every three contests from here, it would end the year with, heaven forbid, the worst record in team history (51-111).
Enough of the extremes. Neither one of these scenarios is relevant or realistic. And it has nothing to do with the 12-game losing streak. The point is, there is plenty of good ground in between for the Royals to lay claim to and get their wagons headed in the right direction before this marathon of a season reaches the finish line.
How about if the Royals are able to win 55 percent of the next 144 games - a very reasonable projection? That would give them a record of 79-83. Admittedly, that's not where the Royals or the fans ultimately want this team to be. Given, however, that this would represent the best season record for this team since 2003 (when the Royals went 83-79 under first-year manager Tony Pena) and the third best in the past two decades, it sounds pretty encouraging right about now, doesn't it?
Kansas City Royals By The Numbers
.267 - Royals team batting average through 18 games, tied for the 6th best in the major leagues.
.303 - Shortstop Alcides Escobar, the sixth best hitter for average among Royals' starters a year ago, leads the team in hitting in 2012 with a .303 average.
3 - The Royals have had three 12-game losing streaks in the franchise's 43-year history. The last one was in 2008.
7 - Number of times Billy Butler has homered twice in the same game, like he did in Wednesday's 8-2 Royals' victory over Cleveland.
19 - Longest losing streak in Kansas City Royals' history (July 28-August 19, 2005). The Royals went on to finish the year with a franchise-worst 56-106 record.
24 - Eric Hosmer's two-run homer in the fifth inning Wednesday at Cleveland was the 24th in his big-league career. Twenty-three have been off of right-handed pitchers.
26 - Royals' team ERA of 4.48 ranks 27th out of 30 MLB teams.
60 - Minimum amount of days Royals' rookie catcher Salvador Perez is expected to remain out before returning to play with his surgically repaired left knee.