There are just 10 games remaining in the 2012 season and the Kansas City Royals find themselves right in the middle of the Playoff Hunt.
Not as a contender of course, but as the pesky underachievers who could spoil the party. Their play over the next 10 days will determine the winner of the American League Central Division.
To the Chicago White Sox fan’s relief, they and the Royals are done seeing each other for the season. The Royals beat up on the Sox again this year, going 12-6 against the self-proclaimed “Good Guys”. (The Royals were 11-7 against them in 2011) The Royals played a big part in Detroit’s run at the Division Title by winning these games, and by winning 4 of 6 against the Sox in September. Going into today, Chicago finds themselves at just 9-12 for the month, in the middle of a five-game losing streak, and clinging to a one-game lead in the Division.
Of the Royals’ remaining 10 games, seven of those will be against the team that has been chasing the White Sox for most of 2012 – the Detroit Tigers. This could either be good news or bad news for Tigers fans. Up to this point, the Tigers hold a 7-4 advantage over the Royals this season. However, in their most recent matchup, the Royals swept Detroit in a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Before that, the Tigers were the ones doing the sweeping, winning their three-game series in Detroit back in July. All in all, the Tigers are 4-1 vs. the Royals at home and 3-3 at Kauffman.
It shapes up to be an advantage for Detroit, considering that the first four games are in Detroit, with tonight’s game being a make-up of a rainout on April 30th. Justin Verlander will face the Royals tonight, and if the rotation holds true, the Royals would not have to face him again. However, it’s likely that if Detroit’s playoff chances come down to needing a win on the final day of the season, they’d move the Cy Young winner up a day to face KC on October 3rd. Verlander on the hill does not mean an automatic win for the Tigers though – the last time he faced the Royals, he was roughed up about as bad as he ever has been. You know that will be on his mind when he takes the ball tonight.
While the Royals & Tigers are battling in Detroit, Chicago will be facing Cleveland for three at home, then will welcome in the Tampa Bay Rays for a four-game set. Chicago is a healthy 8-4 against Cleveland this year, and are 3-0 against Tampa Bay. With seven straight home games, they’ve got to like their odds. Advantage Chicago?
After this first four-game set between the Tigers and Royals, Detroit will travel to Minnesota for a three-game series. The Tigers are just 8-7 against Minnesota this year, but are 5-1 in the Twin Cities.
The final three games of the year will come down to Chicago at Cleveland and Detroit at Kansas City. Depending on what happens over the next week, the race could come down to these three games. Royals fans should treat this as our World Series. These will be games that Detroit will HAVE to win, so they’ll be all business. It will be great experience for the Royals to strap it on and go toe to toe with the Tigers to see how they match up. In a season of disappointment and underwhelming achievements, it will be good to see how our guys measure up against a team in the hunt for the playoffs.
Chicago definitely has the home field advantage going into this final stretch, getting to play 7 of 10 at home. Detroit is playing better baseball right now, but not by much. They’re just 10-11 in September and have lost 3 of 4. As a matter of fact, at 11-11, the Royals record for September is better than both contending teams. If they’re able to keep it up, Chicago will win the division.
As for the Royals, they’ll finish in third place, their best finish since 2003. That was also their last winning season. They won’t break the .500 mark again this year, but they will have a say in which team raises a banner as the 2012 AL Central Champions.