Royals believe resilience can take them far
Foiled by difficult May last season, club determined to strive for better
SEATTLE -- The Royals remember last May.
Who could forget it?
Not the Royals, and they don't want to. It's become a rallying point for the franchise.
It was a brutal month. Kansas City went 8-20, losing 20 of its final 25 games, including a 1-12 stretch that pretty well sabotaged an otherwise impressive season.
The Royals had a winning record in the five other months of the season, going a combined 78-56, a .582 winning percentage, which was eight points better than what the American League Central champion Tigers posted for the season.
It was the difference between success and disappointment a year ago for Kansas City. And it could well be the key to success this year, allowing the Royals to wash away 28 postseason-free years.
"The way you handle the downs is important," said manager Ned Yost. "These guys figured out they had such a bad May and still end the season 10 games over. They were six games under at the All-Star break and finished 10 games over.
"They realize that anything can happen -- as long as you work had, play with energy, play with life and have fun doing it."
What these Royals realize is they can't let a bad night or two ruin a month. And the indication at this point is that they won't allow that to happen.
Think about it.
Kansas City opened May by losing five in a row, capped off by a 6-5, 12-inning loss at San Diego on Monday night in which it blew leads of 3-0, 4-3 and a 5-4 edge going into the bottom of the 12th.
The Royals' response? They pulled out a 3-1, 11-inning victory over the Padres the next night, then routed San Diego, 8-0, on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Kansas City was shut down by Hisashi Iwakuma, who came off the disabled list and made his 2014 debut with eight scoreless innings in a repeat of his effort last Sept. 25, which officially eliminated the Royals from postseason consideration.
The response? A 6-1 win over against the Mariners at Safeco Field on Friday night in which the Royals pounded out 16 hits, all singles, only one of which came in 12 at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. And in that case, this was a gorgeous night for Kansas City.
"This," admitted Yost, "was a big win for us."
Big because it got the Royals back within a game of .500 (17-18). Big because they did get those 16 hits, even if they were singles, marking the third time in the last five games they had recorded at least 14 hits. Big because it answered the question that hangs over the team about being able to forget about what happened last May.
"There's always going to be a question in somebody's mind," said Yost. "But not in ours. We took a big step last year with what we did in the second half. These guys never gave up. They kept fighting. They played with energy.
"With the talent they have and to play with energy, they are going to be special. It doesn't matter what other people think or say."
Oh, and there are plenty for the naysayers to think and say, extending well past last May.
Kansas City is looking to end a postseason drought that dates back to its 1985 World Series championship. It's the longest in baseball.
The Royals feel they are finally ready to end that blight on their record. They want to be known more about their decade of dominance, when they advanced to the postseason seven times in 10 years, not a quarter-century of disappointment.
Despite their struggles last May, the Royals did complete a season with a winning record for the first time in a decade. That is something they want to build on.
"I believe as a group these guys are going to accomplish something special this year, and nothing is going to take it away from them," Yost said.
It's not a seamless transition to go from their state of the last 28 years to being thought of as a legitimate contender in the AL Central. The focus, however, has to remain on what can happen, not what did happen.
"I think these guys know what they are capable of," said Yost. "It has been a bit of a struggle for us offensively, but we know if we can hover around .500 until we get the offense going, we are in good shape."
So far, so good.
Kansas City is hitting only .258, which is seventh in the AL, and the club ranks 14th in runs scored with 138, only 15 more than an Astros team that is 11-25. The Royals, meanwhile, are in third place in the AL Central, five games behind division-leading Detroit.
And there are signs of offensive life. Kansas City's top three offensive games have come in the last five days. Eric Hosmer is 12-for-22 with four runs scored, his first home run of the year and seven RBIs in the first five games of this road trip. Salvador Perez is 9-for-23 on the trip, and Alex Gordon, with three hits on Friday, has hit safely in the last four games after a 2-for-23 start to the month.
"All year we've bounced back," said Yost.
There's no sense for the Royals to stop now.