In a tight AL Central, Royals need bats

Royals need bats in tight Central

KANSAS CITY -- Like every manager, Trey Hillman values every series. But this one matters just a little bit more.

The Royals, who are in the midst of a three-game set with the Detroit Tigers, need to perform well in these games in hopes of salvaging what has so far been a trying homestand. More than that, the club hopes a successful series can help it move up in the still-tight American League Central standings.

"It should give everyone with the Royals a little added motivation and energy simply because its everybody's division right now," Hillman said. "It's kind of all bunched up. Nobody's really taken charge with running away with it and putting streaks together."

Going into Tuesday night's game, nearly a quarter of the way into the season, the Tigers were last in the AL Central. The Royals were a half-game ahead in fourth, just four games behind the division-leading Twins.

If Kansas City hopes to move up, it will have to be more successful in this series. And to do that, the bats will have to produce.

As has been the case all season, the offense has been the Royals' Achilles' heel during these last few home games. Kansas City scored fewer than five runs in all but two of their outings against the Orioles and Angels. Even when Kansas City won on Sunday, the team could not convert on a bases-loaded, none-out opportunity.

"If we can continue to improve with our offense, then there's no reason why we can't be in the mix higher up in the standings in the Central," Hillman said.

To kick off the homestand, the Royals took one game out of three from the Angels last week, and were in danger of getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles until Brian Bannister threw a gem to salvage the final game on Sunday.

"Up to this point," Hillman said, "we would feel better if we would have had a better homestand."

The Tigers could be just the team to change Kansas City's fortune on this homestand, which is the team's longest of the season. The Royals swept Detroit to start the season, and the Tigers still haven't started playing ball at the level most people predicted at the beginning of the year.

At 16-22, Detroit has the second-highest scoring offense in the American League, but the team has an ERA of 4.57, the ninth best.

Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.