Sadly I didn’t get to this before Monday afternoon’s disaster in Comerica Park in Detroit. But still, the Royals are one game into their biggest regular season series since that epic series with the (then) California Angels in September 1985. The big differences are that Angels series was in KC and during the final week of the season. When the Royals caught the Angels that week, they needed just two more wins to clinch the division.
This time, the R’s are in Detroit and there’s still plenty of baseball no matter what happens in these three games. Importantly, the teams play one more series back in KC to (potentially) balance whatever happens this week.
Still, there was a buzz in the air Monday anticipating the late afternoon start.1 Sure, it was going to be tough to beat Verlander, Scherzer, and Porcello. But in a season where crazy things keep happening, anything felt possible.
Misplays in the field. A bad time for a really crappy start by Jeremy Guthrie. Detroit ripping balls down the line and hitting soft liners that landed on the chalk.
A terrible start. But the beauty of baseball is that they get to try again today. I have a feeling Scherzer mows down the Royals tonight. Hopefully Jason Vargas can slow down the Tigers bats, too. But then James Shields will be nails on Wednesday and put the Royals back into first place with just over two weeks to play.
The last couple of weeks have been nerve-racking yet tremendous fun. Alex Gordon hitting huge, potentially career-defining home runs. The pitching staff being lights-out almost every night. The defense rising to the occasion more often than not. Baseball that really matters in late August and early September.
As so many people have written, the way the Royals are doing this is not sustainable. But it also harkens back to how that 1985 team won: great pitching, scratching out just enough hits to win. And the thing about sustainability is that this doesn’t have to last forever. Just two more weeks and, suddenly, the game turns to the Royals’ advantage. Playoff baseball is made for strong starting pitching and dominant relievers. We’ve seen it time-and-again in the Wild Card era. A team gets hot on the mound and rides them to back-to-back best of seven series wins.
Realistically, I expect the Royals to come up short. There’s just not enough juice in their bats and it’s hard to believe they can keep winning while scoring only one or two runs a night. And even with Detroit’s health issues, they have bats up and down their lineup and a pitching staff that keeps them in any series. That realist in me sees Detroit finally putting it together for a hot 15-game stretch and winning the division by three or four games. Meanwhile Seattle keeps winning and the Royals not only miss out on the division title, but on the second wild card spot.
But, you know what? The Tigers have only played really good ball for a few weeks in May and July. Why would they suddenly put it together now? They’ve battled injuries all year. Why not lose Miguel Cabrera for two weeks, or David Price develops a blister on his finger, of JD Martinez runs into a wall and goes on the concussion list. The Mariners still have 11 games against the A’s and Angels. There’s no reason they can’t fall apart. And that streaky-ass Royals offense has enough time to crawl out of this latest deep freeze and hit the ball hard for a couple weeks to put this thing away.
It’s been a ridiculously fun and tense six weeks for us Royals fans. The first time I’ve felt like this since I was 14 and starting high school. I hope they can keep it going for two more weeks so we can see what happens that last weekend of the season.
- Thanks to the Monday Night Football game across town. Which I loved. It made the game feel like one of those late afternoon LCS games that happened back in the 70s and 80s. ↩