Ok, so six months ago when the Royals' schedule was released, this looked like just another series, in just another lost season, in just another 6-9 win month. But now, this Royals/White Sox tilt has taken on a whole new look.
These are the series that fans of toiling franchises dream about.
Here it is. Mid-July. The Royals are quasi-contenders. Eight games out of first place in a winnable division on July 8. The White Sox came to town with their "hottest team in baseball" cooties, and it has seemed to rub off on the Royals, who have now won 10 of their last 13 ballgames.
So, here we go. Bruce Chen (5-2, 3.51), who is doing his best Mark Buehrle impression, takes on Mark Buehrle (7-7, 4.53), who is doing his best Bruce Chen impression, in game one of the series. Dayman Banny takes on Gavin Floyd in game two. And Zack Greinke vs. TBA on Sunday for game three. Pretty winnable series on paper. Royals have been rocking Buehrle around all year. Gavin Floyd is finally developing into a mediocre pitcher and whoever the third starter is, is going to have a tough time taking on a Zack Greinke who has started to pitch like a combination of 2009 Zack and Optimus Prime.
Make no doubt about it. This is when games start to matter more. This is the last series before the All Star Break. Most teams are looking forward to the break and spending time away from the game. From all reports, the Royals can't wait to get back out on the field each day. These guys are playing really, really good, entertaining baseball right now. A series win in Chicago catapults the Royals into the All Star Break, single digits behind the division leader and playing their best baseball all year.
After Chicago and the break, it's back to KC for three-game sets with the Oakland A's and Toronto Blue Jays. Making this stretch even more crucial, 13 of the first 17 games after the All Star Break are played at Kauffman Stadium. A good series in Chicago and continuing this hot streak could be the right mix for a good excuse to go out to the ballpark for an otherwise disinterested fanbase.
I consider the White Sox a rival. This is how rivalries are strengthened. Mid to late season games that have division race implications. And even though the Royals are still seven games under .500, this series is still just as big as every other series with a division opponent for the rest of the year.
It is a borderline critical series for our boys in blue. There is a groundswell of support for these guys all of the sudden. A series win in Chicago completely energizes the city and fans and it could be a pretty fun second half of July, and possibly second half of the season here in KC.