Now they get ready to go home for six more games with their postseason hopes hanging by a thread.
“Obviously, it means a lot to us,” pitcher Danny Duffy said before Monday’s makeup game at Yankee Stadium.
As their hopes for another trip to the postseason have become increasingly improbable, the possibility that this week will be it for this group has become more real. Manager Ned Yost acknowledged that Monday, admitting he will take it into account with his lineups.
“You’re definitely aware of the possibility that could happen,” Yost said. “These guys have been going so hard this year and they’re all beat down. You would really like to just give them a couple days off, but it’s hard to do because our fans are going to want to see them.
“We’ll pick spots and give them a day off — but multiple days off, probably not. We’ll just try to balance it so they get a bit of a break but it doesn’t take away from giving our fans a chance to see them play.”
One guy who won’t get a day off is Escobar, the shortstop who played all 162 games in 2016 and will almost certainly do so again. Escobar made his 327th consecutive start Monday, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues. He also played all 162 games in ’14 before missing 14 games the following year.
“I like to play,” Escobar said. “I want to play, man, a lot.”
As he closes in on playing 162 for the third time in four years, Escobar said he can’t imagine anyone playing every game for 16 straight seasons, as Cal Ripken Jr. did.
“Wow, that’s unbelievable,” Escobar said. “Nobody can catch that.”
What Escobar has done is impressive enough. Reds first baseman Joey Votto, Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis and Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor are the only other Major League players who have appeared in every game this season.
Most players get days off whether they want them or not. But Escobar long ago proved to Yost that he doesn’t need them. Even with all the work, Escobar has hit better this month (.359 batting average going into Monday) than he has all season. His second-half average of .288 is much better than his .226 mark from the first half.
“He loves to play every day,” Yost said. “He’s got the body type that doesn’t wear down. Did he tail off in the second half? No, he got markedly better. He’s got the mindset and the body that he can do it.”
Other Royals have played a lot, too. Hosmer has missed just one game, while Cain played in his 150th game Monday. They’ll play more this week at Kauffman Stadium. Yost believes the fans deserve to see them.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York and covered the Royals on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.