While the Royals series against Detroit didn’t as well as hoped, Kansas City is still very much in the thick of the wild card race.
Their continued inclusion for a wild card spot can be attributed to the fine work done by the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and Minnesota Twins over the weekend. The A’s and Red Sox swept the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees over the weekend, while the Twins were able to steal one from the Tampa Bay Rays. As a result, the standings have opened up in such a way that both wild card spots are within striking distance for the Royals.
Here are the current wild card standings:
TB: 81-67 (–)
TEX: 81-67 (–)
CLE: 81-68 (0.5)
BAL: 79-70 (2.5)
NY: 79-71 (3)
KC: 78-71 (3.5)
One last thought on the weekend before we go into the breakdown of what the Royals need to happen this week.
The Royals accomplished the minimum – but vastly important – goal of not getting swept by Detroit. While winning the series would have been huge, avoiding the sweep was something KC had to do if they wanted to enter this week with a shot to launch themselves into a wild card spot.
Yes, losing Sunday sucked. It sucked a large bag of (base)balls. But because they avoided the sweep and got some help from Oakland, Boston, and Minnesota, the Royals are still in a good position to make a move.
Okay, here’s what the Royals need over the next few days.
CLEVELAND at ROYALS
From here on out, the Royals cannot afford to lose a series to anyone. Keep winning series, and there is a good chance Kansas City will be relevant on the last weekend of the regular season. Lose a series, and the Royals chances are pretty much shot – not completely, but 99% done.
This next week is crucial for KC because they have six games against Cleveland and Texas on their schedule. So a win means a guarantee of moving closer to an actual playoff spot as opposed to hoping for someone else to help out the Royals.
But the Royals also control their own destiny to some degree. The collapse of Texas and Tampa Bay means the Royals probably don’t have to win 90 games to make the playoffs, which gives the Royals a more attainable final win total that would clinch a playoff spot. But the margin of error is still small. Their margin increases significantly with a big week.
Win this series and sweep Texas or sweep Cleveland and win the series versus Texas and the Royals will be in serious business. Kansas City is still in a serious way if they go 4-2 this week, but 5-1 or 6-0 would mean the Royals would likely be in the driver’s seat heading into the final week of play.
But don’t take my word for it (READING RAINBOW REFERENCE!), read what Rany Jazayerli posted today:
[I]f they go 5-1, they’re guaranteed to be in good position with a week to go. It will help if the Rangers/Rays series doesn’t end up in a sweep for either team. It obviously helps if some of the spoilers can spoil a game or two.
VERDICT: Root for at least two wins, but hope for a sweep.
TEXAS at TAMPA BAY
Someone has to win these games, right? Texas has lost 12 of their last 14 games, and are currently on a six-game slide. Things aren’t going to get easier for them this week as they have the Rays and Royals for seven games.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has lost 14 of their last 20, and are now tied with Texas in the standings. Tampa has gone from being 21 games over .500, tied for first place in the AL East, and having a 94% chance make the playoffs to potentially being out of a playoff spot lead by the end of tonight in a matter of three weeks.
The collapse of Texas and Tampa have been huge to the Royals potential playoff chances, and one of them is guaranteed to be continuing that slide by the weekend. So who should the Royals root for?
In terms of keeping the odds of a Royals playoff spot as high as possible, the Royals need to have as many lanes open as possible. There are two ways this could end well for the Royals: Tampa and Texas split or Texas wins the series.
A split means that neither team runs away from the Royals, keeping all of the contenders for the wild card spot in a close bunch. But if a team is going to break away, it is best served for the Royals if it is Texas because the Royals have a three game series with them this weekend.
VERDICT: Root for a split.
NEW YORK at TORONTO
God bless the Boston Red Sox.
Of all the teams that would have been hardest for the Royals to catch, it would be the Yankees. Boston made that a moot point by sweeping them over the weekend in Boston. As a result, New York is only a half-game ahead of the Royals, with New York having played one extra game. If the Royals do what they need to do to catch Texas, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland, then they’ll naturally pass the Yankees, or at the very least tie them.
Kansas City needs the Yankees to not go on an extended winning streak. While it would be great if the Yankees lost the series against Toronto, one loss will do just fine.
VERDICT: Root for at least one Yankees lost.
BALTIMORE at BOSTON
Boston’s magic number to win the AL East is four, so they are no doubt motivated to get those wins. As a result, those wins will help put Baltimore in the rearview mirror if Boston can sweep the series.
Baltimore also has a three-game set against the Red Sox to end the season.
VERDICT: Root hard for the Red Sox.
Worst Case: Royals lose the series against Cleveland. Lose the series against the Indians and the Royals chances of making the playoffs are, for all intents and purposes, doomed.
Best Case: Win the series against Cleveland. Texas and Tampa Bay split, Baltimore and New York each lose one game.
Dream Scenario: Royals sweep Cleveland, Rangers sweep Rays, Baltimore loses series, New York loses one game.
This is what the standings would look like Friday morning with the Rangers coming into town in a dream scenario event:
TEX: 85-67 (+4)
TB: 81-71 (–)
KC: 81-71 (–)
CLE: 81-71 (–)
NY: 81-72 (0.5)
BAL: 80-72 (1)
Continuing the dream, the Royals sweep the Rangers to move one game back of Texas over the weekend. So if the Royals win six straight and the Yankees lose at least one game, the Royals cannot be any worse than a half-game out of the final wild card spot heading into the final week of the season.
In short, the Royals have a ton of control over their own destiny.
Also, holy crap, this would be an awesome final week of the season!