The Kansas City Royals finished their season with a 89-73 record, and are now rewarded the right to host the 1 game playoff against the Oakland A's, who at last clinched a spot into the postseason. Waiting until the very last day to make it. With the right to host the first postseason game in Kansas City in near 3 decades, much anticipation will be put into this game by nearly everyone around the metro area.
In a sense the 1 game Wild Card playoff game mirrors the play-in games for the NCAA Tournament. Lose and you don't get to make it to the real starting point of the tournament. For the Royals standards this game stands in the way of playing a best-of-5 with the Anaheim Angels, starting this Thursday. But before looking ahead to the ALDS match up, Kansas City will have to be able to out perform their biggest nemesis this season, A's pitcher Jon Lester. Lester in his career against KC is 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA, 88 IP, and a WHIP of 1.07. Even though, Kansas City owned the head-to-head series against Oakland, Lester was the only one they couldn't solve. So what's the real reason that the Royals are unable to crack Lester?
Minus Terrance Gore and Christian Colon, who are the only two current players on the roster who have yet to face Lester. Here is a Chart showing Royals batters against Lester the current Royals have produced a .248 Bating avg. versus Lester, being Salvador Perez the best hitter against him. (This is a small sample size that last through just 9 total plate appearances). Alex Gordon and Billy Butler according to the graph are near the bottom of the barrel in strikeouts and OBP, combined strikeouts from the two result to 21. Yet, this somehow lists Butler having 5 walks against the lefty. Which makes a rough less of sense since the Royals can't salvage a walk in any game to save their lives. BTW, Oakland has gone 5 straight games in not allowing a walk, expect the streak to be extended. Some say Christian Colon should get a shot over Moustakas in the game Tuesday at Third Base, and truthfully it wouldn't hurt.
Colon when he has been used in games by Yost has knocked the cover off the ball, and this could be a change of pace for Lester and might give the Royals an X-Factor in the match up. James Shields will have to be at the top of his game to even match or out duel the dominate Lester Tuesday night. An electrifying home game in front of the nation is the best situation the Royals could ask for in a quest for the crown. Yes, the Wild Card game is a step in the right direction and a stepping stone for later pennant chases to come, but this game can be labeled as ''must win'' for the Royals. They earned this right to be here, to play on this stage. You can't let one pitcher be the deciding factor of how your season ends, its just for one game, but Shields and Royals just have to outperform Lester once, that's all.
Do the Royals have a great shot of beating Lester and Oakland to advance into the ALDS? Absolutely, Oakland backed-in into the postseason. They're offense has gotten more colder in stretches than ours, and Lester can be beaten in one day. If the Royals offense can catch a spark by a few players and receive an elite performance behind Shields it will be enough to ride into Anaheim Thursday.