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It’s not football season quite yet

Royals play their way into the pennant race

By The Mercury

The United States is launching air strikes in northern Iraq, the record Ebola outbreak threatens to spread from West Africa, Russia is still trying to rule Ukraine and the Israelis and Palestinians seem to be waiting for each other to break the latest cease-fire.

Area residents in need of a distraction can find one in the most unlikely of organizations — the Kansas City Royals. By this time most Augusts, they’re an afterthought, at or near the bottom of the standings, hard even for their most devoted fans to defend.  Sports enthusiasts instead devote their energy to the Kansas State Wildcats, the Kansas City Chiefs or that city’s top-notch soccer team, Sporting KC.

Well today, the Royals are in the thick of the pennant race. They’re a half-game out of first place, courtesy of a seven-game winning streak. That streak, by the way, isn’t their longest of the year. Last month they ran off 10 victories in a row.

Yes, they’re a bit fortunate to be in the American League Central division, but the team they swept over the weekend was the San Francisco Giants, who are in second place in the National League West. There isn’t anyone the Royals can’t beat.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they’ll beat them when it matters. We don’t know whether the Royals will win the division or even make the playoffs. That’s the blessing and curse of being a sports fan. Heck, the Royals might lose seven in a row; they’ve shown a tendency to be miserable at times as well as terrific.

They might well display a little of both in the 46 games that remain. What’s different now is that those games still matter. The big “if” all year has been whether the Royals, who have decent starting pitching and an outstanding bullpen, can score enough runs. Lately the answer has been a resounding yes; they’re even belting some home runs.

It happens that the last time the Royals had two winning streaks of seven or more games in the same season was 1985. That’s the last time they made the playoffs. That year is notable for another reason. It’s the year — the only year — the Royals won the World Series.

OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This might be another tease. But the Royals might also be entering the stretch run of a memorable year.

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