Don't look now, but the Kansas City Royals are making some noise in the AL Central.
Currently on a nine-game win-streak, the Royals find themselves 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the division. The Cleveland Indians are four games ahead of Kansas City, making this a three-team race to the end.
With their success as of late, can the Royals pull off a huge upset and win the division?
What's Going Right for Kansas City
Before anyone jumps on the Royals for having it easy after the All-Star break, they actually haven't. They took two-of-three from Detroit, three-of-four from Baltimore and then swept the White Sox and Twins.
The last six games may be considered easy, but it still counts in the standings.
When you look at the numbers over the last nine games, a few things stick out: They haven't allowed more than three runs in any game and the bullpen has only given up three total runs.
Greg Holland has earned four saves and starters earned wins in all but two games.
Offensively, Eric Hosmer is 13-for-40 with two home runs and six RBI, while Billy Butler has five multi-hit games and Mike Moustakas is 8-for-22 with two home runs and seven RBI.
And if you want more than that, just watch this play by Lorenzo Cain, which is one of many great defensive plays the Royals have made lately:
Detroit and Cleveland Keeping Pace
Like Kansas City, Detroit and Cleveland have been on a bit of a winning streak.
Detroit is 9-1 in its last 10, while Cleveland is 8-2.
All are having success thanks in large part to the same combinations that are successful for Kansas City.
Both Detroit and Cleveland are winning close games and the bullpens aren't giving up many runs over the last 10. Both bullpens have only given up six runs in that time.
The Rest of the Way
When you look at the rest of the schedule, things look pretty good for the Royals.
The end of the season is tough for Kansas City. From Sept. 6-22, they will be playing either Texas, Cleveland or Detroit. The final seven games of the season are against the White Sox and Mariners.
Here's a look at the schedule breakdown for all three teams:
|Teams||Home Games||Away Games||vs. Sub-.500 teams|
|Kansas City Royals||30||27||32|
Things seem pretty even when you look at this breakdown. However, when you look at the opponents still left for each, it becomes a lot clearer who has the advantage.
Where the Tigers have a major advantage is that 16 of their last 19 games are against the White Sox, Mariners, Twins and Marlins.
For Cleveland, 17 games remain against Kansas City and Detroit. But the Indians also have three games at Oakland, three games at Atlanta and three games versus Baltimore.
Where will the Royals finish in the AL Central?
Like Detroit, Cleveland has an easy last few weeks of the season in which 14 of its last 17 games are against Minnesota, the White Sox and Houston.
In the end, this race will come down to the 12-straight games the Royals have with the Tigers and Indians.
There's an easy schedule before and after, and winning the division is doable.
But will the Royals do it and make the playoffs for the first time since 1985?
I'm going to have to say no. It's been a valiant fight, but with the way the schedule is set up, Kansas City is at a disadvantage.