The Oakland Athletics have barely made it, but they’re in the postseason, hoping to shake off whatever’s been holding them back for two months. The Kansas City Royals are carrying positive momentum in their first playoff appearance after almost 30 years, with the crowd on their side for this win-or-go-home AL Wild Card game.
The A’s made a big trade that cost them maybe their best lineup player but also gave them Jon Lester. They felt they needed a big time pitcher, a two-time World Series winner with the Red Sox, to give them a chance to win a playoff series. It’ll be up to Lester, who had a strong September (3-2, 2.00 ERA), to show in a very uncomfortable environment, that he was worth making the trade for.
And this wild card game feels like it might turn into a pitcher’s duel. The A’s are 4th in baseball this season with 729 total runs, but they’ve been struggling putting points on the board through September and throughout the last couple of months. James Shields will be pitching for the Royals, another pitcher with postseason experience. He had two shutouts in September, posting a 2.63 ERA in five starts. He had a shaky early summer, but seems to have find the right rhythm over the last month or so.
So who creates runs? The A’s have Josh Donaldson as their star with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs this season while hitting a 2.55. The A’s are good at reaching base (10th in Baseball), but not great when it comes to power or batting average (.244). Josh Reddick is in good form, and against the Royals, who have similar offensive problems, jumping out to an early lead with big hits from maybe also Brandon Moss could give them a very big advantage.
The Royals? Not big on power. They don’t have anyone with more than 19 home runs this season, and Alex Gordon with 74 RBIs is their “slugger.” The Royals get it done with speed and base running, which means it’s going to be about putting pressure on Lester very early on, which means putting the spotlight on Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and maybe Jarrod Dyson later in the game.
A big couple of days for Kansas City, who could have saved themselves the one-game trouble and won the AL Central had it not been for the Detroit Tigers waking up late in the season. The NFL game against the Patriots was a big night for the city and the team, as Royals players got their applause from fans in the stadium. That energy might be the biggest advantage they have at the moment becomes when it comes to scoring runs, the Royals are at a disadvantage.