It will take more than a couple of bitter, one-run defeats in Motown to make the Kansas City Royals feel any less optimistic about what could be a watershed season.
The Royals head home from their season-opening series in Detroit to play the Chicago White Sox in their home opener Friday. Kauffman Stadium is expected to be sold out, and not just because it represents the first chance for most of their fans to see the club this spring.
No, it's also sold out because expectations are soaring — despite a rough start against the Tigers — for a fan base hoping to finally see some postseason baseball.
"We had a great second half last year as a team, and the fans always come out in Kansas City," Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said this week. "They love us. They love their sports teams. They're dying for a winner."
The Royals haven't made the playoffs since 1985, when they beat cross-state rival St. Louis to win their lone World Series. In truth, they hadn't sniffed meaningful baseball in a decade until a magical second half kept them in contention until the final week last season.
Kansas City still wound up with 86 wins, its most in more than two decades.
"I've played in Kansas City so long. It is home for me, so I can't wait to get back," designated hitter Billy Butler said. "It's an electric feel there now. We're a different team."
Even if they looked like the same 'ol Royals in Detroit.
James Shields dueled with Tigers ace Justin Verlander before the Kansas City bullpen let him down in a ninth-inning, 4-3 defeat. Two days later, newcomer Jason Vargas hung with reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer before the bullpen again let the Royals down in a 10th-inning, 2-1 loss.
Their game against Detroit on Wednesday was rained out, which means they're limping home with a winless record, sending Jeremy Guthrie to the mound Friday against Chicago's Erik Johnson.