The Royals-Tigers series is a big one, so we decided to round up some of our writers at the palatial Royals Review compound at an undisclosed location and talk pennant-run baseball.
What do the Royals need to do to have a successful series against the Tigers?
Joshua Ward: A successful series against the Tigers means taking advantage of their defensive liabilities, working the count against their starters so you get into the bullpen, and keeping both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in check.
Josh Duggan: Take two of three and not let the Tigers gain ground.
Matthew LaMar: Force their pitchers out early, get to the bullpen, and prevent runs with pitching/defense. Royals can't win in a slugfest but are more suited to a war of attrition.
Shaun Newkirk: Have the Tigers pitching be more 2014 than 2012, and keep the sequencing train rolling.
Kevin Ruprecht: Obviously, the normal pitching and defense thing applies. Most importantly, though, the offense NEEDS TO SHOW UP. Not be fashionably late. Not skip the party because they're too tired or already in their sweatpants. They need to burst through the party door with a bottle of Jack and a box of Cubans.
Max Rieper: The pitchers need to keep the ball in the ballpark. Guthrie and Vargas need to avoid a big inning, and there are few weak spots in that Tigers lineup. The hitters need to work the count and get into that vulnerable Tigers bullpen. Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello are hittable, and Max Scherzer is known for being a guy that can't go deep in games, so the opportunity is there if the Royals aren't hacking at pitches out of the zone. Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer need to show up. Butler is mired in a 8-49 slump over his last 14 games, and Hosmer is hitting under .200 since returning from the disabled list with not much production. It would also be nice if Greg Holland was 100% healthy for this series.
NHZ: The BABIP Fairy and the RISP Centaur to both take their side in this fight.
All three games will be nationally televised. Do you buy into the notion the Royals cannot perform in the spotlight (big crowds, national television) or is that just small sample size noise?
Kevin Ruprecht: Normally, I'd say no. Normally, I'd say small sample size noise. In this case, I'm inclined to say that as well, but this is a team managed by Ned Yost, who didn't want to get into players' domes by pinch hitting or whatever. 35,000 screaming fans can get into your dome if pinch hitting will.
Shaun Newkirk: Brian Bannister beat Stephen Strasburg in Washington on national TV. Literally anything can happen.
Matthew LaMar: No, its just bad luck. They have gone on great road trips two or three times. Eventually you just stop getting lucky. It's just happened to be at home in front of good crowds.
Joshua Ward: It probably is just noise, but it is interesting that they have struggled at home under the bright lights, and that they have struggled in general in bigger moments. For all the platitudes about the Tigers having a team built for the post-season, they also have a team consisting of people who have been here and done that. It doesn't mean the Royals can't outperform them, but they'd have to prove it first.
Max Rieper: I think there is probably a very small kernel of truth to it, but its probably just noise. This team has won big series under pressure this year. You don't get to be in first place without winning some big series. Besides, if anything, the pressure is on Detroit at this point. They NEED to make a statement this series, because time is running out on them.
Josh Duggan: It's possible that they wilt under pressure, but I don't buy into that quite yet.
NHZ: No. That's just horse pucky.
Can the Royals rebound if they get swept?
Shaun Newkirk: Yes. Seattle is basically as good as the Royals and the second wild card is going to come down between KC, Seattle, and Detroit.
Matthew LaMar: This series? Absolutely. Both series? No
Joshua Ward: I don't know. If the Royals get swept, they'd be a game back with the loss of the suspended game hanging over their heads. It would be a pretty big system shock if it happened. Saying that, though, they haven't given up this season. So, I wouldn't say that they can't bounce back from a sweep, but it would probably mean we need to start looking at the Wild Card standings again.
Josh Duggan: This season has been too bizarre to say "no." They do have another series against Detroit at home next weekend, so it'd be hard to stand by a "done" pronouncement when they could get that ground right back in a week.
Max Rieper: I think this team has built up enough confidence and enough of a lead at this point that they can still rebound even if they have a disastrous series. They'd only be a game back with Detroit coming to our place next weekend, and we still have seven games left against Chicago and three against Boston. Both Wild Cards would be in play for the Royals as well. If they get totally blown out in all three games however, I'd probably worry a little.
Kevin Ruprecht: Yes. The Royals have built a decent lead. It will be a severe blow to lose, but not a mortal one. There will be another series against the Tigers. It sure will make it much harder.
NHZ: Sure. They have the easier schedule aside from the head-to-head match-ups.
Is the division race over if they are able to sweep the Tigers?
Matthew LaMar: This series? Absolutely. Both series? No
Joshua Ward: If they sweep the Tigers, they would be five up with eighteen games left. Or, 4.5 up with seventeen left. At that point, going 7-10 likely would still be good enough for the division, and we should probably start planning some Plaza Parades. If anything, sweeping Detroit puts Kansas City into a pretty secure post-season position, even if it doesn't wrap up the division entirely.
Shaun Newkirk: Naw. Down one game and the Royals are projected to finish the season the same as Detroit. With a pinch of luck they could steal a game here or there. Either way, it's all about beating Seattle.
Max Rieper: It wouldn't be over, but I'd start tentatively making post-season plans at that point.
Josh Duggan: This again goes back to the series in KC next weekend. The 1.5* game lead they have on the Tigers could be just that again if they exchange road sweeps. Short answer: no.
Kevin Ruprecht: No. There will still be other games. It'll be much closer to over, though.
NHZ: Nah, the Royals are still sailing enough off percentages where it's possible they'll crash in the form of a six-game losing streak or something. But I'll be thrilled if we sweep.
Predictions on the series?
NHZ: Tigers take two out of three.
Matthew LaMar: Tigers sweep this series, Royals take 2 of 3 in KC.
Josh Duggan: The eternal pessimist--er, realist--in me says Detroit takes two of three and that KC takes two of three next weekend leaving us right where we are right now in two weeks.
Joshua Ward: I'll say they go 1-2, but I've been incorrect a lot this season. I think we're past the point of saying that the Royals just need to survive the Tigers. They need to start putting some distance between the two of them, but I am not sure it happens this series. I can dream of scenarios that have the Royals dropping all three games to them winning all three. None of them seem wholly implausible, which is both a problem and a boon.
Shaun Newkirk: The first game is basically a showdown of the teams' worst two pitchers (LOL Justin Verlander as a team's worst pitcher). Scherzer versus Vargas is going to be interesting and then Shields versus Porcello.I'll take Shields in the last game, Verlander in the first then pick or chose the second game with Detroit given better odds. So likely Detroit for two out of three especially given its in Detroit. If it were Shields versus Scherzer and Vargas versus Verlander then it might be two out of three for the Royals.
Max Rieper: I don't particularly like the pitching matchups for this series, and would feel better if we had Yordano Ventura and a healthy Danny Duffy instead of Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas. I think we'll grab one game in this series, but fare much better when Detroit comes to the K next weekend. And our stadium better be rocking that weekend.
Kevin Ruprecht: Royals take it 2-1 after finally shutting out the pressure and maintaining their domes. Danger Ox doesn't die of dysentery.