I love looking at Twitter every night and watching Royals fans combust under the pressure of a pennant race. This is fun, huh?
Actually, Kansas City is in pretty good shape - for now. The Royals have a half-game lead over Detroit in the American League Central and are two games clear of Seattle, which is currently in possession of the second wild-card spot in the AL.
The key word there is “currently.”
In September, things can change quickly. Teams get hot. And as the Royals found out over the Labor Day weekend against Cleveland, there is nothing that can be taken for granted.
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Kansas City has righted its ship since being swept (OK, there’s still time for the Royals to come back from a two-run deficit in a game that was suspended because of weather Sunday Night) by the Indians. KC has knocked off hapless Texas twice with the third and final game of that series to be played tonight.
Meanwhile, Detroit looks to be pulling it together. The Tigers have won two in a row over Cleveland, including a dramatic victory over the Tribe on Tuesday night.
And Seattle is dangerous becuase the Mariners have outstanding pitching.
It’s a good idea, occasionally, to size up the contending teams. For now, I’m not including Cleveland and the New York Yankees as contenders, as both have fallen five games behind Seattle for the second wild card.
So with Baltimore, the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland fairly secure as playoff teams - although it wouldn’t hurt the A’s to get a move on - that leaves three spots for Kansas City, Detroit and Seattle to fight over.
Let’s look at remaining schedules and how these contenders are playing, shall we?
Kansas City (76-61) – As stated, the Royals are a half-game up on the Tigers in the AL Central with 24 games to play, including a home game tonight against Texas. Kansas City – like Detroit and Seattle – has played better on the road this season than it has at home. Kansas City is also playing the best baseball of the three with a 28-15 record since the All-Star break. Here’s the Royals’ remaining schedule: vs. Texas, 3 at New York; 3 at Detroit; 4 vs. Boston; 3 vs. White Sox; 3 vs. Detroit; 4 (including finish of suspeneded game) at Cleveland; 4 at White Sox.
Detroit (76-62) – The Tigers’ trade for David Price at the deadline hasn’t helped as much as most thought it would. An injury to starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez was a blow, but it’s still impossible to deny that Detroit has the most talent of the three teams contending for two playoff spots. Still, that Tigers bullpen has been a mess all season long. Detroit is just 23-24 since the All-Star break, though showing signs of breaking through recently. Here is what’s left of Detroit’s schedule: 2 at Cleveland; 3 vs. San Francisco; 3 vs. Kansas City; 3 vs. Cleveland; 3 at Minnesota; 3 at Kansas City; 3 vs. White Sox; 4 vs. Twins.
Seattle (74-63) – The Mariners have ridden great pitching and some timely hitting from Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, mostly, into contention. Seattle can really pitch, with Felix Hernandez at the top of a rotation that includes Hisashi Iwakuma, Chris Young and James Paxton. Crooked-hatted Fernando Rodney has 40 saves in a bullpen with a combined 2.43 ERA. The Mariners are 23-19 since the All-Star break and still have 11 games to play against the A’s and Angels. Here’s the schedule breakdown: 1 at Oakland; 4 at Texas; 3 vs. Houston; 3 vs. Oakland; 4 at Angels; 3 at Houston; 4 at Toronto; 3 vs. Angels.
Does checking this out make you feel better, Royals fans? Or worse? Or can you feel much of anything? Welcome to high stakes September baseball.