Royals say they're ready for biggest series of the season
AUG 15, 2013 11:58a ET
Is this five-game series with AL Central-leading Detroit that begins tonight the biggest series he and most of his teammates have ever played in?
Hosmer paused for a moment, then smiled and said, "Well, so far."
That brought a round of laughter from the reporters gathered around him following the Royals' 5-2 loss to the Marlins on Wednesday.
Then Hosmer added the qualifier: "And then the three games after that are big. And the three after that.
"But yeah, we're not going to sugarcoat it. They're the head of the division right now. We have some ground to make up. That's the good part of the series. We don't have to worry about who they're playing or who anyone else is playing. It's right there in front of us.
"They know we're playing good baseball."
True, the Royals are playing good baseball. Or at least they were, until the sour-tasting, back-to-back losses to the Marlins dampened the spirit from an otherwise terrific homestand. The Royals are now 19-7 since the All-Star break.
But Hosmer believes it won't take much to dismiss the memory of the Marlins' losses.
"It was a tough one to swallow, but we have to look ahead," he said. "We got five games with Detroit and we can make up some serious ground. We've got time.
"I think we can push these ( Miami) games behind us. We know what's ahead of us. We can really make a statement."
Hosmer's teammates agreed.
Right-hander Ervin Santana said there's no shame in losing two games to the Marlins.
"They are another team in the big leagues," Santana said. "You have to play them just like anyone else and do your best to beat them. We didn't. We move on."
Added designated hitter Billy Butler: "Means nothing. They're a big league team like anyone else, and sometimes you lose."
But wasn't losing to the Marlins a bit of a momentum killer?
"I don't think we need any more motivation to play Detroit," Butler said. "Miami has good pitching and they got us. We move on.
"We have to play Detroit like normal games. We always play Detroit tough. We lead the season series with them and we just have to play them like we always play them.
"We're playing better and they're playing better."
Indeed, the Royals have treated each game and each series with the Tigers like it was the playoffs. They lead the season series, 5-3, and five of the eight games have been excruciating, white-knuckle, one-run games. And another game in the series went extra innings before the Royals blew it open in the 10th inning, aided by Alex Gordon's grand slam.
"It's just that we know who they are and we know we have to beat them," Butler said. "They are the best in the division and we want to be the best. The games are always good games where one or two small things decide them."
But the Royals, who sit 7½ games behind the Tigers, enter this showdown series short-handed. They will be without center fielder Lorenzo Cain (disabled list) and infielder Miguel Tejada (out for the season), and most likely third baseman Mike Moustakas, who is day to day with a strained calf muscle.
Even manager Ned Yost admitted Wednesday that the best-case scenario with Moustakas is to have him available to pinch hit Saturday or Sunday.
That means the rest of the Royals -- especially Hosmer, Butler, Gordon and catcher Sal Perez -- will have to come up big to counter what has been an anemic offense the past two days.
"No excuses," Butler said. "We've got guys who can step up. Everyone has injuries. Detroit has injuries. We all have injuries this time of year."
Royals general manager Dayton Moore has acted swiftly to compensate, picking up Jamey Carroll and Emilio Bonifacio in the past week to shore up the Royals' depth. Bonifacio, in fact, is likely to step into a starting role in the absence of Moustakas.
"Yeah, that's why it takes 25 guys to make a playoff run," Hosmer said. "It's a long season and stuff like injuries happen. You need all 25 to make a run, so other guys have to step up. We have to continue with the day-to-day approach."
Utility infielder Elliot Johnson, who made a crucial fielding error in Wednesday's 5-2 loss, expects the Royals will rally together, as they have all season, to face the Tigers.
"It's not the way we wanted to go into this series," Johnson said, "but this is a big series and we all know that. But baseball is funny -- you can go out and win 17-0 one night and lose 17-0 the next night.
"You just go out and put the past behind you and be ready each night. I think we'll be fine. It's what we've done all season."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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