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How the 2015 Kansas City Royals survived into the postseason

Kansas City used largely the same formula they did in 2014 to reach the playoffs for the second straight season.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

With a 10-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on September 24, the Kansas City Royals clinched their first division crown since 1985. After taking home a Wild Card berth last season, the Royals did one better this year in wining the AL Central with a 95-67 record using essentially the same cast of characters. There were some significant tweaks, however, so here is a look at the Royals' 2015 season:

Edinson Volquez proves to be an adequate replacement for James Shields

After James Shields, who made five postseason starts for Kansas City in 2014, signed a four-year, $75 million deal with San Diego, the Royals brought in Edinson Volquez on a two-year, $20 million contract to replace him. Volquez did quite the job in place of Shields, with a 3.55 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 200⅓ innings, with an ERA+ of 117 that was just a tick below Shields' 123 mark in 2014. The Royals went 22-11 in Volquez's starts this season compared to their 21-13 record with Shields on the mound a year ago.

The addition of Kendrys Morales pays dividends

Needing a designated hitter after Billy Butler signed with Oakland, the Royals picked up veteran Kendrys Morales on a two-year, $17 million deal. Morales proved to be a strong addition, hitting .290/.362/.485 and tying Mike Moustakas for the team lead with 22 home runs. Morales also led the Royals with a 131 wRC+.

More weapons arrive at the trade deadline

Firmly in the lead in the division as the trade deadline approached, the Royals added a pair of big-name reinforcements in pitcher Johnny Cueto and versatile hitter Ben Zobrist. Zobrist was the more productive of the two, hitting .284/.364/.453 with seven home runs in 59 games with the Royals, primarily playing second base and left field. Cueto had an ERA of 4.76 in 13 starts with Kansas City, but still features prominently in the Royals' postseason plans.