It’s August 11th and the Royals are in first place in the American League Central. That’s not a typo.
The Royals won their eighth straight game tonight with a 3-2 victory over the Athletics at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Tigers lost 11-6 to the Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. As a result, the Royals are now a half-game ahead of the Tigers in the division. It’s quite a turnaround when you consider that they were eight games out of first place on July 21. They have gone 16-3 since.
The Royals and Athletics were tied 2-2 tonight before shortstop Alcides Escobar delivered a go-ahead single off Sonny Gray in the seventh inning. Yordano Ventura allowed two runs over six innings before Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland combined for three scoreless innings to lock down the victory. The back end of that bullpen is really something. After making the catch for the final out of the game, center fielder Jarrod Dyson provided the exclamation point by doing a post-victory backflip. Fun times in Kansas City.
The Royals haven’t been to the postseason since 1985. This is the latest they have been in first place in a season since 2003.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.