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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Sports Potpourri: Your red-hot Kansas City Royals are true playoff contenders

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  • American League hitters are apprehensive before playing a series against the Kansas City Royals baseball team because of the whistling fastballs thrown by five of their pitchers.
    Starters Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, and relievers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland all have snapping fastballs that clock from 95-101 miles per hour.
    And, they’re all just wild enough that opposing hitters are prepared to duck.  That makes those pitches hard to hit.
    The Royals are playing their best baseball of the season; they had won 15 of their last 18 games through last Sunday's win against San Francisco. KC has been balanced — hitting, fielding, and pitching — during the hot streak.
    Improved plate discipline by the hitters has been the most significant improvement. Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas are leading the way in this vital aspect of the game.
    Butler was hitting too many ground balls and swinging at bad pitches, but that’s changed. He’s hitting the ball high and hard. Moustakas is showing confidence and discipline that has been missing.
    KC’s hitters in general have been highly effective for the last three weeks.
    The race for the second wild card slot in the American League is wide open.  If the Los Angeles Angels finish second behind Oakland in the American League West, they are a cinch for one of the wild card spots. From there, it’s going to be a dogfight for the second wild card.
    After Sunday's games, KC had a slight lead over the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and Seattle Mariners. It’s going to be an up-and-down race for the second wild card all the way to the end of the season.
    Kansas City is playing superb baseball and the Royals have a solid opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985.
    Something is terribly wrong with Major League Baseball when a team like Detroit can acquire left-handed pitcher David Price in a trade with just two months to go in a tight pennant race.
    Price is on a very short list of the best pitchers in MLB — he’s in his prime at 28 years old and won the Cy Young Award in 2012.
    When Price joined the Tigers right after the All-Star break, it dramatically shifted the balance of power in the American League Central. There are no solutions to the problem from here, but it’s disgracefully unfair to the other teams in the AL Central. MLB should at least outlaw trades this late in the season.
    Turning to football …
    NFL exhibition games are close to meaningless. Despite that, Kansas City Chiefs rookies displayed extraordinary speed and talent in their 41-39 win over Cincinnati.
    Page 2 of 2 - De’Anthony Thomas (5-9, 174) — a rookie running back from Oregon — showed explosive speed and agility while running back a punt 80 yards for a touchdown. Albert Wilson (5-9, 200), who is a rookie wide receiver from Georgia State, showed similar speed and quickness; he ran a kickoff back 65 yards.
    If that wasn’t enough in the speed department, tight end Travis Kelce (6-6, 260) caught a quick pass over the middle and outran the Bengals’ defensive backs for a 69-yard touchdown. That kind of speed from a tight end is unexpected. Kelce is coming off a knee injury from last season, but he appears ready to go.
    After the game, Coach Andy Reid said, “It was good to have him back out there and he had quite a few snaps … and I think he did a nice job out there. He showed a little speed at the end. I mean, heck, he was pulling away from secondary players. It wasn’t just a linebacker, so I was impressed with that. He did some in-line block, line-of-scrimmage blocking which I thought he did a really good job of.”
    Anthony Fasano (6-4, 255) is an eight-year NFL veteran from Notre Dame who is expected to be the starting tight end. Fasano was hampered last season by injuries, but he’s back in good shape. Tight end looks to be a strong position for the Chiefs.
    One positive from the Cincinnati game was simply getting the win. Even though preseason games don’t count, it’s good for the Chiefs to get that losing monkey off their backs early.
    KC still has a number of issues that need to be solved: the offensive line is very young and quality depth is questionable. Defensively, the secondary could become a major weakness — only time will tell — and the wide-receiving corps looks shaky indeed.
    Overall, the first preseason game was a success — winning momentarily solves all problems.

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