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Surging Royals focused on division title

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KANSAS CITY -- There's steam building in the Royals' boiler room. It happens when the standings get tight and a bid for the top seems about to explode.

"It's always fun to win, and you kind of build off of it," closer Greg Holland said. "The more you win, the more fun you have."

Coming off a 5-1 road trip and 12 victories in 15 games not only brought the Royals closer to the top of the American League Central but had them feeling more determined to break the 28-year postseason lapse.

"It feels great but nobody's satisfied in here. Just like in June, we got into first and we were there for 12 hours or whatever. We're not satisfied where we're at. We'll continue to work," first baseman Billy Butler said.

"It feels good right now, it feels good after every win and we're winning a lot lately, and I feel like our team's only getting better."

Amid the optimism, Holland sounded a note of caution.

"There's a lot of teams that are talented and there's a lot of parity in the American League this year. Even the Twins and the White Sox and the Indians, they always give us trouble, they always give Detroit trouble," Holland said.

"It's a division that's pretty tough, year-in and year-out. This year there are four or five teams that are still in it. Anybody can get hot and rattle off 10 in a row and be right there."

The Royals came off the road second in the race for the two AL Wild Card berths.

"You look at the Wild Card standings and the whole American League, it's pretty close -- a lot of teams in the mix," Holland said.

Indeed, the Angels have a good lead as the first Wild Card team but, while the Royals held the second spot going into Friday's games, the Yankees, Mariners and Blue Jays were all just a half-game back.

Manager Ned Yost, though, wants his players to focus on the bigger prize.

"I don't get them in there every day and put a chalkboard [message]: 'Do not look at the Wild Card,'" Yost said. "We want to win the division. They know that. They want to win the division. The Wild Card is Plan B, that's what it is. We stay focused on Plan A."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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