Kansas City won the regular season matchup 5-2, with all seven games coming during the month of August when Oakland was really slumping.
The A’s really struggled in the second half of the season, giving up the division lead to the Angels, who ultimately ran away with the American League West crown. Oakland just barely held on to a playoff spot, winning on the last day of the regular season to hold off the Seattle Mariners. But lucky for them, all they have to do is win this one game, and at the trade deadline they picked up a guy who is perfect for this one game: Jon Lester. The former Boston ace had one of his best seasons in 2014, showing no signs of being worn down from the extra innings he pitched in the 2013 postseason. Despite their second half struggles, the A’s offense ranks third in the AL in runs, first in walks and fifth in on-base percentage. The pitching has been outstanding all season, as well as the bullpen.
As for Kansas City, the Royals are back in the postseason! This has to be very exciting for Kansas City fans who have waited more than 20 years to see this moment. They barely missed out on the division and avoiding this silly one-game playoff format. Nonetheless, they’re here, and they have the guy they traded for to get them here on the mound in James Shields. They gave up Wil Myers for this, and the move has paid off, regardless of what happens. The Royals are the first team to make the playoffs despite being last in the league in home runs. However, they were second in average and first in stolen bases, so they know how to manufacture runs. Their bullpen is every bit as good as Oakland’s, if not better considering they record strikeouts at a higher clip, which is crucial in the playoffs.
Kansas City is the exact opposite of Oakland in that they started out slow and turned it on in the second half. Everything is pointing towards Kansas City winning this game. They’ll play their first postseason game in over two decades, and it will be in front of an electric crowd. However, that means these young Royals hitters will be shaking in their cleats. On the mound will be a pitcher who just won some of the biggest games of his career on an even bigger stage last October. Lester is going to have these kids swinging at air, and the postseason experience the Athletics have gained over the past two seasons will help them, as well.
AL Wild Card prediction: Oakland wins and moves on to play their division rival Los Angeles Angels. Sorry Kansas City fans, win your division next year to avoid the one-game playoff.