It’s starting to feel real. After many ups and downs, many losses that seemed like the end of the road, the Royals are 77-69 and two games out of the AL Wild Card.
How contenders fared on Wednesday:
Kansas City 6, Cleveland 2
That’s all they scored, though. Shields settled down and started the ninth inning before two singles made it a save situation. He exited after 108 pitches while Greg Holland struck out the side to strand two and finish off the game. Shields had a terrible start last time out against Detroit and rebounded nicely in a big situation. The Royals will take a fully rested bullpen to Detroit for three games over the weekend.
New York 5, Baltimore 4
The Yankees scored twice in the top of the ninth to break a 3-3 tie in Baltimore. Mariano Rivera closed the game out to give the Yankees a 2-1 series lead with a fourth game happening on Thursday.
Pittsburgh 7, Texas 5
Boston 7, Tampa Bay 3
The Red Sox had a 3-2 lead but James Loney tied the game with a homer in the 8th inning. The game went into extra innings but Boston landed a knockout punch when they loaded the bases and got a pinch-hit grand slam Mike Carp. The Red Sox aim to sweep the Rays tomorrow.
Current Wild Card Standings:
- Texas Rangers 81-64
- Tampa Bay Rays 78-66
- New York Yankees 78-68 (1 GB)
- Baltimore Orioles 77-68 (1.5 GB)
- Cleveland Indians 77-68 (1.5 GB)
- Kansas City Royals 77-69 (2 GB)
What the Royals need to happen: Boston need to finish off the sweep of Tampa. They have the momentum, and the way the Rays lost Wednesday night could be a backbreaker. Kansas City is off on Thursday, so that would gain half a game. The Orioles would also need to win to split the series and keep New York from catching up to Tampa (if they were to lose). Cleveland starts a series in Chicago, part of their weak remaining schedule. Obviously, we want the White Sox to do well.
For as rough as it’s been for Tampa Bay, the Rangers have been falling fast as well. Tampa has now lost seven of their last ten, but Texas has lost eight of their last ten and on Friday they will host Oakland. The A’s are seeking to add some distance between themselves and the Rangers in the AL West. Maybe that gives the Royals another avenue to sneak in. They have a three game series to finish the home schedule and those could turn out to be key matchups.
Both the Indians and Yankees are 6-4 in their last ten games, but Cleveland has lost two in a row after the Royals series. Baltimore is 5-5 in their last ten. The Royals are the hottest team in the group at 7-3 over their last ten.
CoolStandings.com has updated odds for reaching the wild card and surprisingly have the Royals (15.8% chance) ahead of the Orioles (11.7%). Next is New York (20.7%) and Cleveland (28.5%).
There exists a realistic chance that the Royals can make the wild card game. Back in May, that didn’t seem remotely possible. At the All-Star break, it felt like it was slipping away. But the Royals won’t give up.
Maybe there’s nothing to lose here. The pressure’s on Tampa and Texas to hang on and they’re both slipping. Every other team has to watch out for them and if they can just hang in there through the next series in Detroit and at home against Cleveland, they could end up in a position to push Texas and then finish up the year with Seattle (who dropped three of four to the Royals in Kansas City) and Chicago (who have won eight of the fifteen games so far against the Royals this year), teams that are beatable.
As a fan, this is exciting. The second wild card injects so much more drama into this race – four teams are currently within two games of the postseason while two teams are leading. That’s six teams eagerly watching the scoreboard. Six teams figuring out the odds.
The Royals have 16 games left. The drama’s just starting.