The Royals' grasp on first place is a tenuous half game over the flailing Detroit Tigers. To keep (or even re-enforce) their grip on the reins, the Royals must get past the best team in baseball, the visiting Oak Land Athletics.
With their interdivisional rivals facing off against the ascending Pirates, the Royals will face Billy Beane's trade-deadline get, southpaw Jon Lester. In 82.0 IP in his career against the Royals, Lester holds a 1.82 ERA with just 55 hits and 31 walks allowed while striking out 64. His numbers against the Royals this season have held.
This will not be easy for the Royals.
The Royals will send out Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie spent the month of July regressing to the mean with a violence that would have made Alex DeLarge ecstatic. His last two starts have seen him rebound--one coming against these very Oak Landers--but these A's can do damage in a hurry, and Guthrie is nothing if not prone to letting dudes hang dong off him.
The Royals are in first.
They're playing the best team in baseball.
This game's got stakes. Relatively high ones.
Come get some.