In AL Central, Royals say Tigers are still the 'team to beat'

NEW YORK -- The Indians won again Wednesday, and the Royals lost again.

So the Royals, in this year when they were supposed to be so much better, are now eight games out of first place in the American League Central.

Or three games out ... because the Tigers lost again.

"That's the good news," Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur said Wednesday. "They're keeping us in it."

The Tigers are more disappointing than the Royals are. The Tigers are now three games below .500.

But when the Royals handicap the AL Central, they still put the Tigers on top.

"With the talent they have, they're the team to beat," Francoeur said.

The Royals have played everyone in the division. They're 2-4 against the Indians, 1-4 against the Tigers and 2-1 against the second-place White Sox.

They're 17-26 overall. Believe it or not, that's the Royals' worst 43-game record in five years.

This year was supposed to be different (even though club officials were always pointing more towards 2013 or 2014). Then came the 12-game losing streak, and injuries to such key players as closer Joakim Soria, catcher Salvador Perez and starting pitchers Danny Duffy and Jonathan Sanchez.

The Royals hope to get Perez back by the end of June. Sanchez could begin a rehab assignment next Monday. Soria and Duffy are out for the year.

The bigger disappointment for Royals officials, though, is that the club hasn't hit well. The Royals began play Wednesday 11th in the American League in runs, after finishing sixth last year.

"We're coming together," Mike Moustakas said. "And it's an open division."

It's open, the Royals believe, because the Tigers are still the team to beat.

And they're struggling, too.

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