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Wild Card Fever: Squandered opportunities edition

Last night hurt. Because if Ned Yost hasn't figured it out yet, he's not going to in September.

Swing the bat, Meat.
Swing the bat, Meat.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Monday's loss hurt. You can't sugarcoat that. Eighteen games remain for the Royals. Here are the current standings along with the postseason odds from Baseball Prospectus:

Team W L PCT GB %
Texas 81 62 .566 +2.5 91.1
Tampa Bay 78 64 .549 ---- 65.3
Cleveland 77 66 .535 -1.5 20.5
Baltimore 77 66 .535 -1.5 12.6
NY Yankees 76 68 .531 -3.0 4.7
Kansas City 75 69 .524 -4.0 0.9

New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles
Ivan Nova vs Miguel Gonzalez

Nova has made 16 starts and is getting by on an 80 percent strand rate. Gonzalez has a lofty 1.2 HR/9 and doesn't miss a ton of bats.

Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians
Jeremy Guthrie vs Zach McAllister

Guthrie has a 4.18 ERA vs a 4.60 xFIP. His strikeout rate is a career low 4.87 SO/9. McAllister is a flyball pitcher yet surrenders fewer than one home run per nine.

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Clay Buchholz vs David Price

Buchholz makes his first major league start since June 8. As Jeff Zimmerman notes, his velocity which was in the lower 90s before his injury was down to around 85 mph in his first rehab start. Price was outstanding after returning from injury in early July but has struggled in his last five starts, posting a 4.78 ERA.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Texas Rangers
Francisco Liriano vs Martin Perez

Liriano has been unreal this season and his peripherals say this isn't a fluke. He sports a 9.2 SO/9, a 3.5 BB/9 and a 0.4 HR/9. Over 50 percent of balls put in play against him are on the ground. He goes against Perez, who is one of the hotter pitchers in the AL. The Rangers have won his last seven starts.

Tonight is a must win for the Royals. There's really no way around it. They entered the Cleveland series needing to take two of three so after losing on Monday, not only is tonight a must win, Wednesday afternoon falls into that category as well. The Rays need to lose, but I don't have a lot of faith with Buchholz on the mound and really we need the Yankees to win to keep things even between them and Baltimore.

Scoreboard watching. There's worse ways to spend September.