Three things to watch for during the 2014 AL Wildcard

The Oakland Athletics (88-74) will be traveling to Kansas City, Mo. to take on the Kansas City Royals (89-73) in Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City is making its first playoff appearance since 1985, and Oakland is making its third straight appearance in the post season.

The Athletics barely made it into the post season after one of the more epic collapses in MLB history. After Oakland traded LF Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for SP Jon Lester on July 31st, the Athletics went 22-35 in the last two months of the season. In fact, the club barely avoided a game 163 in Seattle, Wash. to figure out who was going to end up playing the Royals in the one game Wildcard.

For Kansas City, the Royals have been in a playoff position for a the majority of the season. In fact, the Royals led the AL Central division for several weeks in July…and kept the division title within reach until game 162. The team’s starting staff, anchored by James Shields, has been one of the best rotations in baseball.

These two teams, will be facing off at 8: 07 pm ET on TBS on Tuesday, September 30th.

3) The state of the crowd in Kauffman Stadium.

The last time post season baseball was played in Kauffman, this happened. (Courtesy of STL Cardinal Baseball)

Kauffman Stadium hasn’t seen a postseason game since the conclusion of the 1985 World Series. The ’85 World Series was a seven game series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Royals. It’s biggest moment came in-game six when Don Denkinger blew a call at first base that extended the bottom of the ninth inning and setting up Kansas City’s tying run, keeping the Royals’ World Series hopes alive.

Kansas City won the series in the seventh game, also at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals are back in the postseason for the first time since the ’85 team celebrated their World Series victory. Fans in Kansas City are extremely excited about the Royals’ return to the post season, and have already swamped the official team store to purchase Post Season gear. Those watching the game on television should be watching how excited the crowd is, and how the team is going to respond to it.

2) Will Oakland continue to struggle on offense?

Oakland’s epic collapse was fueled by the Athletics’ offensive ineptitude throughout the last two and half months — that’s before the trade deadline. The Athletics’ hit .222/.295/.305 over the last month of the season, posted a well below average 72 wRC+, and a terrifyingly low wOBA of .270. Those low batting stats indicate that Oakland was just not making good contact (the A’s BABIP was .267, that’s about average for an entire team).

If Oakland is going to have a chance at surviving and advancing in the playoffs, the team is going to need to hit better and get on base. That being said, if these offensive struggles continue…Oakland can kiss its World Series dreams good-bye.

1) The pitching dual, James Shields vs. Jon Lester

Baseball fans are in for a pitching dual between Oakland starter Jon Lester and Kansas City starter James Shields. These two pitchers played a key part in their respective team’s playoff push, especially Lester.

Lester helped to solidify one of baseball’s best starting rotations when he was traded to Oakland, from Boston, during the season. He has struck out 9.01 batters every nine innings he pitched, and only walked 1.97 batters; and he has also pitched 2.46/2.80/3.10 during in 219.2 innings.

When Kansas City traded for James Shields during the 2012 Winter Meetings, there was a lot of head scratching around baseball. Many pundits believed that the Royals were no were near .500, let alone ready to contend for a playoff spot. During the two seasons since the trade, Shields has been one of the best pitchers in baseball on team that (in 2013) just fell short of the second Wildcard spot and (in 2014) is hosting a playoff game. Shields has pitched 3.21/3.59/3.56 this season, and struck out 7.14 batters per nine innings.

With these two pitchers on the mound, there isn’t going to be a lot of runs scored on Tuesday.

PREDICTION: Oakland Athletics 1 – Kansas City Royals 3

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2 replies »

  1. I agree the Royals will win too. Just so everyone knows after the postseason is over I will be writing a Mariners diaries segment stating what the Mariners expectations for 2015 should be now that they’ve had at least some taste of success 🙂