Royals Recent Slide Causes Concern

Cameron FletcherContributor IJune 2, 2009

KANSAS CITY - MAY 14:  Billy Butler #16 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after striking out during the game between the Baltimore Orioles on May 14, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

What a difference a few weeks make. Not too long ago the Royals were atop the Central, riding a six-game winning streak into Los Angeles to take on the Angels.

That's when it happened, the Royals starting losing games. Suddenly the Royals dropped down to second place, then third, and now they find themselves in fourth place, just a shade above the last place Indians.

Now the Royals head into Tampa to start a new month and a nine games in ten days road trip. How the Royals do these next ten days could factor whether or not they are in the race for the Central come September.

What happened since the Royals beat the Mariners on that sunny Thursday afternoon in early May to go to 18-11? Well a lot actually.

It all started in Los Angeles against the Angels when the Royals all but gave away three games with lackluster hitting, bad fielding, and a little bit of bad luck.

Things didn't get much better in Oakland as the Royals stellar pitching suddenly became also-ran.

Then after losing the first game of the Baltimore series on May 14th, the Royals seemed to be getting the ship back in order, winning three of the next four games, including a thrilling four-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth to open the Indians series on May 19th, putting them at 21-18.

But the joy didn't last long as the Royals have now dropped nine of their last 11 games and sit at 23-27, 5.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers and just 2.5 games up on the cellar-dwelling Indians.

Sure, it's easy to blame the loss of Joakim Soria on this recent slide, but the Royals have hardly had the lead during this losing stretch, but with Soria due back soon that is sure to provide some relief to an overworked bullpen.

Sans Greinke, the starting rotation hasn't provided many deep starts for the bullpen, and manager Trey Hillman's questionable use of multiple pitchers during blowout games have fans wondering about his management skills.

But the Royals do have young talent, and a good stable of young arms that will produce many victories down the road for this once proud organization.

The Royals have had some highlights during the first stretch of the season, including Billy Butler, hitting .291 and providing some pop in the three-hole. Mike Jacobs has proven to be a nice offseason pickup, belting nine home runs.

And then there's Zach. Who would have thought three years ago when Greinke almost quit baseball that he would be considered one of the game's best pitchers? His 8-1 record with five complete games and two shutouts have pretty much single- handily kept the Royals from the abyss this season.

If Greinke can continue to roll all season long and the rest of the rotation can come around, the Royals have the right balance of offensive pop with dynamite pitching to make a serious push for the Central crown.

How the Royals play these next ten days will be crucial. If they win six of the nine games on this next road trip that would put them at 29-30 and in good shape heading into the next long home stand (nine games in 10 days).

If they do any worse than that then the Royals can all but kiss the pennant race goodbye. I certainly hope the Royals stay in the race through September and perhaps win it.

Either way, this is a fun team to watch on a daily basis.