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AL Wild Card Game Thread: The Athletics of Oakland versus the Royals of Kansas City

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The most important game thread ever. Jon Lester. James Shields. The biggest of games.

Deliver more of this, please.
Deliver more of this, please.
Brian Kersey

Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod.

Can you feel that? An unfamiliar, simultaneous amalgam of excitement, dread, certainty of failure, blind optimism of success, pending horror, sexual arousal, crippling impotence, realizations that this may never happen again, faint hopes that this will not recur, more sexual arousal, even more crippling impotence, glow-basking, fear-masking, and premature heart palpitations all accompanied by the malodorous combination of befouled undergarments and fear-elicited sweat pouring from every gland?

James Shields is set to hurl the stitched, leather orb for the hometown Royals in the biggest game the Royals have played in nearly three decades.

The Royals batsmen will face Jon Lester, who in thirteen career starts against the Royals has held them to a .196/.276/.264 line with a minuscule 1.84 ERA in 88.1 IP, including a no-hitter in 2008 and three wins in three starts against these very Royals since July 20th. In fact, Oakland's only two wins against the Royals this season have come with Lester on the mound.

I just fear-shat my pants again.

It would be lazy and pointless to make too much of a pitcher's record versus the Royals. Lester twice gave up three runs against the Royals this season. He's not the untouchable tosser that it seems like he is. In the games in which he allowed three runs, the A's scored eight and 11 runs in his support.

The A's have scored more than six runs just six times since September 1st--against Chris Cy Young, James Paxton, Cy Danks, Miguel Gonzalez, C.J. Wilson, and Nick Tepesch. Young, Danks, Gonzalez, and Tepesch are all proud owners of 4.76+ FIPs. Of those pitchers, only Paxton had an above-average FIP (89 FIP-), and he accomplished the feat in a mere 74.0 IP.

This A's offense is not playing like the same A's team that jumped out to a 66 - 40 start. At that point, they had outscored opponents 534 - 365, good for a +169 run differential through 106 games. Since then, their 22 - 34 finish has been punctuated by a -12 run differential (195 - 207). They've been averaging a mere 3.48 runs over their last 56 games, a far cry from the 5.04 they averaged for the first 106 games.

In an attempt to see how the Royals have done against southpaws of Jon Lester's ilk, here is a table showing how the Royals have fared against lefties with a 90 or better FIP- with at least 70 IP.

Player IP H R ER HR SO BB Result
Clayton Kershaw 8.0 6 0 0 0 8 1 0 - 1
Chris Sale 20.0 20 6 6 2 20 4 1 - 2
Jose Quintana 27.2 34 15 15 1 20 4 3 - 0
Jon Lester 20.2 19 6 6 0 20 5 0 - 3
Dallas Keuchel 6.0 6 2 2 1 5 1 0 - 0
Tyler Matzek 6.2 6 3 3 0 5 3 1 - 0
Madison Bumgarner 8.0 7 4 3 1 5 0 1 - 0
Total 97.0 98 36 35 5 83 18 6 - 6

That's good for a 3.25 ERA and .500 record against LHP with a 90 FIP- or better. Of course, most of that is thanks to two starts of five or more earned runs against Jose Quintana. If you were to take Quintana out of the mix, the Royals sport a much worse 3 - 6 record against those LHP, who own a 2.60 ERA.

All of this is to say, I just shat myself again.

While we all probably want to move past the terrifying mix of feelings at the top of the piece, we'd give nothing more to continue on down the stress-filled path to glory/heartbreak.

Do it, Royals.

This Wild Card Game will be a fWAR (and the "f" doesn't stand for Fangraphs)!