Entering the weekend the Royals were back to .500 and only 2.5 games back of the wild card after taking their second consecutive series. The team holding that spot was coming to town for a 4-game series. If the Royals could sweep they might hold the spot, if they could go 3-1 they could be in great position going forward.
They promptly lost the first two games of the series.
However, just like they’ve done all season, when one more loss would really, really, really rule them out they got back up and fought and clawed their way to a late inning comeback win last night. If they win again today they can be right back where they started the series, 2.5 games back of the second wild card spot. But now they’ll have 4 fewer games - none of them head-to-head with any of their fellow wild card contenders - to do it.
They had their backs against the wall, last week, and won. They had their backs against the wall, last night, and won. Their backs are still against the wall. They need to win again, today.
If the Royals want to win today it will probably start with the pitching. There is a reason that the Royals have won most of Jake Junis’ starts, recently, after all. Today’s game will be decided by a pair of starting pitchers who don’t have great stuff but that’s about all they have in common.
Bartolo Colon was signed to a minor league deal by the Twins after Atlanta cut him because he was pitching so poorly. His season line includes a 6.06 ERA but he has been much better, lately. He is currently on a 3-game Quality Start streak and has struck out 13 compared to only 2 walks.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jason Vargas has a much nicer season ERA at 4.23 but has a 4-game streak of anti-quality starts allowing 4 or more runs in 6 or fewer innings. Over those 4 starts he has struck out 11 compared to 7 walks.
The Royals appear to be considering a 6-man rotation to finish the year despite only having 2 starting pitchers with decent results, right now. If it’s going to work or even matter Vargas will have to turn things around, today.