With only a few weeks away, the marathon season has turned into a sprint. This is especially true with the addition of the second Wild Card spot, as the opening of a fifth playoff spot gives more teams more hope.
The Kansas City Royals are not playing tonight. Their lead in the division over the Minnesota Twins, even after losing two of three to them and six of their last nine, is 11 games. That is nothing short of astounding. Still, the Royals' place in the playoffs has yet to be determined, as has their opponent.
These rivals are playing baseball today. Here are the games that will shape the Royals' October:
Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees, 6:05 Central
- Consequences: home field advantage, AL East, Wild Card
- Relevance to KC: high
- Who we should root for: Yankees?
This game (and upcoming series) is immensely important. The Blue Jays trail the Royals by four games in the race for home field advantage, and though four games is a decent buffer, it is not insurmountable. Furthermore, the Yankees are surprisingly close to the Blue Jays, trailing them by only two games in the AL East.
On one hand, the Yankees are evil, and it would be nice to see the Blue Jays win. On the other hand, the Blue Jays are unquestionably the hottest team in baseball and are as poised as possible to make a 2014 Royals-style run in the playoffs. This is one of those times you wish both teams could lose.
Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners, 2:40 Central
- Consequences: AL West, Wild Card
- Relevance to KC: Medium
- Who we should root for: Rangers
Texas has been an extremely sneaky team; nobody really thought they would be particularly good at the beginning of the year, and there hasn't been much news about them, but here they are. The Rangers stand only two games behind the first-place Houston Astros and find themselves in possession of the second Wild Card spot. It would behoove the Royals for the more flawed Rangers to win the West, forcing the talented Astros into the one-game playoff.
Seattle...well, Seattle has been disappointing. Their $900 trillion signing, Robinson Cano, has been worth a grand total of 1.4 WAR this year. Kendrys Morales has been worth 1.6 WAR this year. As a DH. #BooCano
St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds, 6:10 Central
- Consequences: NL Central
- Relevance to KC: low
- Who we should root for: Reds
Look, nothing more would make me happy than a Cardinals collapse and an ugly loss to the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card game as the Pittsburgh Pirates win the NL Central. Until that is mathematically impossible, I will root for such an event, as should you.