Funny thing about winning. Every series, every game, every inning, every at bat – they all matter. The Royals have had more big games, big series’, and big stretches, than in any year since 2003, and since the early 1990′s before that. They dropped to 2.5 games out of the American League wild card race on their off day, as three of the teams they are contending with won on Thursday.
Kansas City is in Detroit this weekend for another huge series. It is not huge for the Tigers, who have pretty much had the AL Central wrapped up since the All-Star break, but it is huge for the Royals.
With just sixteen games to go in the 2013 season, The Royals have just 5 more series left on the schedule. They must win each and every series to have a chance at their first playoff berth since their championship season in 1985. That was along time ago.
Kansas City has 3-game match ups with Detroit, Cleveland, Texas, and Seattle, then end with a 4-game tilt against the White Sox. If they win each series, they will go at least 11-5 from here on out. It still may not be enough, but they would have done what they could. There is no room for extra losses.
Up first are the mighty Tigers. The Royals have actually held their own against the division powerhouse in 2013, going 9-7 thus far.
In game one, Bruce Chen (7-2, 2.79 ERA) will challenge Justin Verlander. The former Cy Young winner had a career mark of 15-2 against Kansas City going into this season but is 0-3 in 2013 in five starts. The Royals should expect Verlander’s best tonight; he is a big game pitcher with some of the best stuff in baseball. The Royals will need Bruce Chen at his very best, confounding Tiger hitters and getting them to pop up weakly.
Game two features the Royals’ second big off season acquisition, Ervin Santana (8-9, 3.35 ERA). Doug Fister (12-8, 3.77 ERA) will go for the Tigers. Fister is 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA against Kansas City this season in four starts. In a weird little coincidence, Santana has only faced Detroit once this season but he shut them out for 7.1 innings.
Finally, Jeremy Guthrie (14-10, 4.11 ERA) gets to go head-to-head against the pitcher who will most likely win the Cy Young this season, former Missouri Tiger Max Scherzer (19-3, 3.01 ERA). Guthrie is 2-1 this season facing the Tigers but does have a 5.12 ERA doing so. If nothing else, you will know Guthrie will give everything he has in each and every start. He needs to help the Royals break through against Scherzer, who has faced the Kansas City three times this year and came away with 3 wins, despite a 4.05 ERA.
The Royals’ batters will have their work cut out for them against three extremely tough pitchers. The defense has to be sound, the Royals must be patient at the plate in hopes of getting into a sometimes faulty Tiger bullpen, and the Royals have to run, run, run on the base paths.
The pitchers need to eliminate walks and try to keep the ball in the ball park against some of the heaviest hitters in the American League. They need to limit the damage and keep all the games close. If it becomes bullpen versus bullpen, Kansas City has a big advantage.
Ned Yost needs to manage his personnel better and not make any crucial mistakes as he has been known to do.
The Royals are playing some of their best baseball right now. They cannot afford a let down or any kind of multiple game losing streak. The Royals are playing right now like a team that believes in themselves and that must continue.
It has been absolutely great seeing a baseball team play exciting and competitive ball for the first time in a decade. These last few days have been exhilarating, watching a team battle each and every night, and to pull so close to the leaders. Regardless of how the season turns out from here on, the Royals have made this an exciting baseball season.
Now, go get ‘em, Royals!
WILD CARD STANDINGS
- TEXAS RANGERS (81-64, 0 GB)
- TAMPA BAY RAYS (79-66, 0 GB)
- NEW YORK YANKEES (79-68, 1 GB)
- CLEVELAND INDIANS (78-68, 1.5 GB)
- KANSAS CITY ROYALS (77-69, 2.5 GB)
- BALTIMORE ORIOLES (77-69, 2.5 GB)