The Royals have opened up a 1.5 game lead on the Detroit Tigers, their largest lead this late in the season since August 18, 2003. So if you don't know what to do at this point, you're forgiven, we're all in kind of uncharted waters here.
Only six teams in baseball have a better record than the Royals and the Twins are assuredly not one of them. What was nice about last night's game is that it was the Royals playing not at their best, and yet the game really wasn't close until the ninth inning. The Royals should win this series rather easily, although tonight's pitching matchup is probably the most favorable one of the series for Minnesota.
Phil Hughes has been the Twins best starting pitcher this year, in the first of a three-year $24 million deal in Minnesota. His 2.64 FIP is sixth in the league and Hughes has experienced career highs in strikeout rates (8.0 per nine innings) and a sharp decline in walks (0.9 per nine innings). Hughes has faced the Royals twice already this year with nearly identical lines - 6 innings pitched, three runs allowed, one walk in each of the starts, winning one of them while losing the other. Some of Hughes' success has been attributed to his home ballpark, Target Field, which is not as home-run friendly, allowing Hughes to get away with his four-seam fastball more often.
"I sort of told myself I’m going to attack the strike zone and throw strikes whether they are perfectly commanded pitches low and away or whether it’s on the plate a little more,"
Going for the Royals is he of the "throwing fire" variety, Yordano Ventura. The Royals have won ten of the last thirteen starts Ventura has made, and since his lackluster start in Boston just after the All-Star break, Ventura has given up just eight earned runs in four starts, with over a strikeout per inning. Ventura has faced the Twins twice this year, struggling in a late April start, but giving up just one run over seven innings in a win on July 31.
Ned says Greg Holland is going to rest for a game or two. I hope you like scary movies, because Aaron Crow is probably the guy you'll see in late game situations.