What’s fueling this Kansas City Royals turnaround? And can they really keep it up?

Kyle Isbel knew what he needed to do. The Kansas City Royals outfielder had one option against the Houston Astros.

His job was to have a professional at-bat.

Isbel was up in a key spot against the Astros in the April 9 game. The Royals were down three runs in the fifth inning against starting pitcher Cristian Javier.

Javier had tossed four scoreless innings up to that point. However, Adam Frazier had worked a leadoff walk and Hunter Renfroe followed with a single.

Isbel was next at the plate. Javier, who is tough on right-handed hitters, had his changeup working throughout the game. So Isbel decided to challenge him in a different way.

He laid down a sacrifice bunt.

“We really didn’t have much going all game,” Isbel said. “(Maikel Garcia) was putting some good swings on his pitches. So I figured if we could get them over to second and third, we can chip away and maybe get one or two (runs). At least, we get something on the board and we can move forward from there.”

The Royals did that and a little more. Isbel advanced both runners and Garcia came to the plate.

Garcia hit a sacrifice fly and Frazier scored. Next, Bobby Witt Jr. hit an RBI triple that drove home Renfroe. It was Witt’s second triple of the season.

Kansas City had moved within a run. Later, Witt scored on a throwing error as Vinnie Pasquantino reached base. The Royals had erased a three-run deficit and went on to win 4-3 in extra innings.

Isbel’s sacrifice bunt was the spark that ignited the Royals’ offensive flame that day.

“That’s what winners do,” Royals hitting coach Alec Zumwalt said. “You have a group of winners that are willing to do whatever they got to do to help the team win the game.”

The Royals are off to a great start this season. They’ve shown major improvement in their starting rotation. This year’s group of five has posted 12 quality starts in 19 games.

The Royals’ lineup has also been lethal. The’ve scored 92 runs and hit 23 home runs and have a .408 team slugging percentage.

Those numbers rank inside the top five in the American League.

The Royals have scored 10 or more runs five times while piling up 257 total bases.

“We got a talented lineup and guys are swinging it well,” utilityman Garrett Hampson said. “It starts with Bobby (Witt) and Maikel (Garcia) setting the tone. Our run producers are starting to drive in some runs.”

Garcia registered the first hit of the 2024 season. He hit a solo homer off Minnesota Twins ace Pablo Lopez on opening day. He’s currently batting .164, but he has three home runs and 12 RBIs this season.

Last year, Garcia hit four home runs in 123 games. When he’s playing well, it sets the tone and gives Witt, Pasquantino and Royals captain Salvador Perez more chances to do damage.

“If you are doing something to help the team win, it’s going to eventually help your stats as well,” outfielder MJ Melendez said.

Melendez has settled into his role within the offense. He provides protection for Pasquantino and Perez in the middle of the order.

This season, the trio has combined for 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Melendez has shown more consistency while Pasquantino and Perez are healthy to start the year.

Zumwalt said a team effort has led to the offensive outburst. He hasn’t noticed anyone waiting for the “big hit.” Instead, he said, the Royals are working together to operate in rhythm.

“I think every night it’s been somebody different that’s been able to come through with the big hit, key walk or whatever the situation may be,” Zumwalt said. “There is such a different sense, not like one person trying to do everything.”

The Royals relied heavily on Witt last season, and he often came through with a pivotal hit or decisive run. Now, the Royals have multiple players with the confidence to come through in clutch situations.

Nelson Velazquez is one of the guys who fit the bill. And he has made critical improvements. He was impressive last season, with 14 home runs in 40 games after arriving in a mid-season trade.

But opposing teams took notice and began to pitch him inside. So Velazquez had to make an adjustment. He started hitting the baseball to the opposite field, and that’s been beneficial for the Royals.

Velazquez is hitting .293 so far this season with 17 hits, four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.

“I don’t think any pitcher wants to throw to me inside,” he said. “So, they are trying to work away every time. I am just trying to stay middle and middle the other way. I am staying on that plan more with runners in scoring position. If I can get the chance to hit the ball the other way, I’m not only helping me but I’m helping my team.”

Other Royals, such as Hampson, Frazier, Isbel and Hunter Renfroe, have turned in big moments. Renfroe homered in the Royals’ 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox in Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader.

Not to be forgotten, the retooled Royals bench has left its own mark. Speedster Dairon Blanco has five stolen bases in the late innings (although he was caught stealing in Game 2 against the White Sox — for the first time this season — on Wednesday afternoon).

“If we can stay consistent, obviously, for this entire season, the numbers at the end are going to be really good,” Zumwalt said.

The Royals intend to remain competitive in the American League Central this season. Through Wednesday they were in second in the division place behind the Cleveland Guardians.

For this hot start to continue, KC’s offense and pitching staff must keep clicking simultaneously. Witt is leading the charge with a .321 average, 25 hits and 18 runs, and the starting-pitching duo of Seth Lugo and Brady Singer rank among baseball’s current leaders in earned-run average.

As the season continues, we’ll find out whether the Royals can keep it up over the course of 162 games. After a day off Thursday, they return to Kauffman Field on Friday following a 3-3 road trip to New York and Chicago.

The KC offense scored a total of five runs in Wednesday’s doubleheader finale againat the White Sox, but the Royals believe they are in a good spot entering their three-game home series against the Baltimore Orioles.

“This is a high-octane offense any time you get us going,” Royals infielder Nick Loftin said. “(It’s) scary. And with those guys, they are in the lineup every single day, and they continue to show it. We are a force to be reckoned with for sure.”