Tonight begins yet another important series for the Royals (all will be from here on out) in Detroit against the Tigers. Kansas City begins the day 2 ½ behind Tampa Bay in the Wildcard race and just seven out in the AL Central race.
Before the games begin we thought it was overdue to check in with Matt Snyder of Motor City Bengals, here’s our series Q&A.
Kings of Kauffman – This is the last series between the Royals and Tigers this weekend, why has Detroit had such a tough time against KC?
Motor City Bengals – What is it 7-9 (or 9-7 from KC’s perspective) on the year? Yeah, that’s not what you would expect given the relative records of these two teams. The short answer is The Dominance of Bruce Chen, but the long answer is that I mostly just think it’s a product of the random nature of baseball. The Tigers finished 15-4 against Cleveland, but I don’t think there’s anything specific that would make Detroit good versus the Indians but bad versus the Royals. It’s not a very exciting answer, but I think once you get down to small groupings of games like this you’re going to see things that you don’t expect. Not to take anything away from Kansas City though, they’ve proven to be a good team, and certainly they’re capable of beating the Tigers.
KOK – Between Cleveland and Kansas City which team are fans potentially worried about the last couple weeks, if either?
MCB – I think there’s kind of three answers to this question. I think most Tigers fans are now willing to admit that the threat of the team losing the division is now vanishingly small. Up 6.5 with 16 to play is a big, big lead. That’s the first answer.
Second answer is that there’s probably a nagging fear of Cleveland running through their easy schedule (one series with KC aside) and actually attaining the 15-2 record they’d need to have a real shot at passing the Tigers possible. There’s a not-insignificant portion of the fan base who think Jim Leyland is the worst manager ever and live in constant fear of a Tigers collapse.
I don’t think many fans worry about Kansas City winning the division outright, but the third answer is that the Royals are probably the more feared team if it came to a head-to-head matchup in a playoff series. Given the aforementioned lack of success against the Royals this year (and KC’s hot second half in general), I think most fans would much rather run into Cleveland in October than Kansas City.
KOK – The Tigers pitching seems to lineup well this weekend with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer does how much hope does this inspire for fans? KC has had Verlander’s number at times, while Fister/Scherzer have done well against the Royals
MCB – I think Tigers fans just want to see Verlander get back on track in general. He’s shown occasional flashes, but he hasn’t been close to his old dominating self. Then again, he’s still managed a 3.64 ERA, and there’s no shame in that. Also it would be cool to see Verlander get Billy Butler out every now and then.
These three are going to be the core of the playoff rotation (plus Anibal Sanchez), so it’s lined up as well as they could have hoped for going into the biggest remaining series on the schedule.
KOK – What’s the state of the Tigers right now?
MCB – The Tigers are more or less just trying to get healthy and stay healthy. They’re still putting their best lineups on the field, but it’s probably more important to them to avoid injuries than put everything on the line on a given night. Miguel Cabrera has been hampered for more than a month — a fact that is concerning — but he’ll likely see more rest if and when the division gets wrapped up.
They’d still be in a fight for home field advantage in the playoffs if they can clinch the division, but I think they’ll make playoff preparation and overall health a priority over chasing the top spot in the AL. That’s not to say they’ll stop playing hard, but they’ll probably be rotating in more bench players and make quicker calls to the bullpen to get everyone into the game.
KOK – Series predictions
MCB – Detroit would be just fine with a series win. That would knock their magic number down to single digits, help stave off the Indians, and bring them a step closer to clinching the division. I’ll go with home field advantage and say the Tigers do win 2 of 3. Getting swept would be uncomfortable and would likely send Tigers fans back to panictown.
Series Pitching Match-Ups:
Friday, September 13 – Bruce Chen (7-2, 2.79) v. Justin Verlander (12-11, 3.64), 6:08 pm FSKC
Saturday, September 14 – Ervin Santana (8-9, 3.35) v. Doug Fister (12-8, 3.77), 6:08 pm MLB Network
Sunday, September 15 – Jeremy Guthrie (14-10, 4.11) v. Max Scherzer (19-3, 3.01), 12:08 pm TBS
Television Information: FSKC, MLB Network, TBS and the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC)
This weekend the Royals will be on three different TV networks for viewers in Kansas City. Royals Live will be on Friday night before and after the game on FSKC. Saturday the teams will be on MLB Network while Sunday they’ll be on TBS in front of a national audience. Each game can be found on or on the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC on KCSP).
Hunt for Blue October:
AL Central Standings – Detroit Tigers (84-62), Cleveland Indians (79-68, 5.5 GB), Kansas City Royals (77-69, 7 GB), Minnesota Twins (63-82, 20.5), Chicago White Sox (58-89, 26.5)
Wildcard Standings – Texas Rangers (81-64, +2 Games), Tampa Bay Rays (79-66, -), Cleveland Indians (79-68, 1 GB), New York Yankees (79-68, 1 GB), Baltimore Orioles (77-69, 2.5 GB), Kansas City Royals (77-69, 2.5 GB), Los Angeles Angels (70-76, 9.5 GB)