It's been unlikely the Royals would be able to take one of the two coveted Wild Card spots for some time. We've all known this, we've seen the odds by Baseball Prospectus, and we've harped on the inadequacies of this Royals offense.
Last night's game against The Racists, however, brought into sharp relief just how unlikely it is.
The Royals currently sit 79-72 (tied with the Yankees), with 11 games remaining.
We have played the same number of games as the Yankees and Cleveland (82-69), leaving 11 games left. We have played 1 more game than Baltimore (80-70), Tampa Bay, and Texas (82-68), leaving 12 games remaining for each of these teams.
My mathematical knowledge being limited to what I learned in high school, I'll avoid trying to work out aggregate games back, etc, and just present the numbers in a simple, easy to understand way.
The important numbers to focus on now are the losses. It's easy to focus on the wins, but with only 11 games left, it doesn't matter if we win every game unless other teams lose.
We are tied with New York, as mentioned, which means we have to play at least with the same record as them through the last 11 games. We are 2 losses behind Baltimore, 3 losses behind Cleveland, and 4 losses behind Tampa Bay and Texas.
What this means, in simple terms, is that for us to be tied with each of these teams, we have to win that number of games MORE than they do in the remaining games.
The reason the Cleveland series was so vital was that, if we had swept Cleveland, we were in a chase for wins with them. We would have been tied after the series, with 10 games remaining each. Yes, they had an easier schedule, but it would have given us a specific team to watch, a specific team to measure ourselves again. And, depending on how the Tampa/Texas series went, and how Baltimore performed in their series, we could have been tied for the 2nd spot, or within 1 game.
However, the loss last night makes tonight the SINGLE MOST "MUST WIN" GAME the Royals have had in 20 years.
A loss tonight would mean that, disregarding all of the other teams in the chase, leaving out Texas's recent string of losses, and Tampa having to play the Red Sox in another series this year, the Royals will have to win AT LEAST 4 games more than Cleveland in the next 10 games. If Cleveland wins 6 of 10 (against Houston, Chicago and Minnesota, that's an EXTREMELY conservative estimate) the Royals would have to be PERFECT, and that's just to match what Cleveland would do.
So, fellow Royals fans, a loss tonight, and the Royals are, for all practical purposes, out of it. They won't be "mathematically eliminated" until at least the Seattle series, even if they lose tonight and are swept by Texas, but a loss tonight ends the dreams.
That being said, the loss last night probably doomed any dreams we had.