Series Preview: Athletics (72-45) at Royals (63-53)


Remember the last time Kansas City lost? Sung Woo Lee hadn’t yet arrived on American soil and the Oakland Athletics were the opponents. That’s right, game two of the previous series these teams played was the last defeat for our boys in blue which was almost 10 days ago.

Yordano Ventura starts tonight for the Kansas City Royals who look to continue their winning streak at Kauffman Stadium versus the Oakland Athletics. Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

In that game Jason Vargas, opposed Jon Lester and despite pitching well and carrying a no-hitter it was a bad fifth inning that lead to defeat. That was then and this is now where KC is a half game behind Detroit and holds a 1.5 game advantage over New York, Seattle and Toronto.

It was just August 1-3 when these teams played one another out in Oakland, with a four-game series taking place we reached out to Jason Burke of Swingin’ A’s.

Kings of Kauffman – Comments from the series between these two last weekend in Oakland?
Swingin’ A’s – The A’s offense was quiet, aside from the one large inning against Jason Vargas. James Shields is a great pitcher, and he really came after the A’s struggling offense last Sunday. The Royals are a hot team, and they played like it.

KOK – What did the A’s do to take five of seven from the Rays and Twins this week?
SA – The A’s got Coco Crisp back after a week off with a stiff neck on Tuesday. While he only went 4 for 19, his bases-clearing triple on Friday night led the A’s to victory. Stephen Vogt, Brandon Moss and John Jaso all snapped prolonged 0-fers on Thursday night as well. The offense is coming around after facing some tough pitching.

KOK – How confident are you in Billy Beane‘s moves will lead to holding off the Angels plus getting past the divisional round?
SA – Last week, I felt great. The Angels are a good team, but I think the A’s pitching staff is vastly superior to the LAA staff. This would put the Angels in the Wild Card game, right? Well, with Kansas City on a bit of a win streak, and the Angels and Mariners (not to mention the Yankees and Blue Jays) all vying for a Wild Card spot, the Angels may be on the outside looking in. If they have to face the Royals (Shields) or Mariners (Hernandez) in a one-game playoff, I’d have to bet against the Angels. Having the A’s face a team with a solid pitching staff in the ALDS worries me a little bit.

KOK – Oakland is throwing a collection of All-Stars this week against Kansas City, what’s your opinion of the revamped rotation of the last month?
SA – The rotation has been fantastic for the most part. Obviously Jon Lester is a big acquisition. Jeff Samardzija has pitched well, but he is giving up the long ball at a high rate (6 HRA in 7 games) with the A’s. There is also some worry with Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in terms of the workload. This is Gray’s first full season in the bigs. Kazmir hasn’t pitched this much since 2008. On the bright side, Jason Hammel just tossed his second solid outing on Sunday, after a rocky first 4 games in the green and gold. If he’s on, then that gives the A’s some options for the playoffs.

KOK – Series predictions
SA – I think the A’s take 3 of 4. Not because of the Royals, but because this group of A’s players is ready for the stretch run. Beating good teams is something they need to get used to.

In the post game interview on Sunday, Stephen Vogt said, “it’ll be nice to face those pitchers again so soon.” The A’s don’t like getting beaten. They’ve been swept 3 times this season, and they repaid the favor with two of them. The other team, the Tigers, the A’s don’t face again this season.

I haven’t decided if the loss will come Monday with Gray pitching, or Thursday against Shields. Gray had a rough outing against the Rays last Wednesday. We’ll have to see how he rebounds. Shields has been dominant his past 4 starts. He could be getting ready for some playoff baseball, or he could be due for a bad game.

Probable Pitching Match-ups:
Monday, 7:10 pm – Sonny Gray/RHP (12-5, 2.87) v. Yordano Ventura/RHP (9-8, 3.47)
Tuesday, 7:10 pm – Jon Lester/LHP (12-7, 2.44) v. Jeremy Guthrie/RHP (8-9, 4.35)
Wednesday, 7:10 pm – Scott Kazmir/LHP (13-4, 2.73) v. Jason Vargas/LHP (8-5, 3.68)
Thursday, 1:10 pm – Jeff Samardzija/RHP (3-1, 3.08) v. James Shields/RHP (11-6, 3.25)

Comments on Pitching Match-ups – Wow! Oakland might want revenge for what happened the last time these squads faced off and will certainly be armed and ready. The A’s rotation lines up with Gray, Lester, Kazmir and Samardzija going this week. That’s a lot of All-Star pitching that fans will see at the K this week from baseball’s best team. KC counters with Ventura, Guthrie, Vargas and Shields which isn’t a bad counterpunch. In their last series Guthrie and Shields pitched excellent picking up wins with Lester getting the lone victory for the Athletics.

Series Predictions – Kansas City hasn’t lost since leaving the bay area where the A’s are 5-2 over the past week. I felt that Oakland would sweep the Royals last time out which I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. This time out, things will be different with revenge going against baseball’s hottest team. Prediction: Teams split this four-game series  

2014 Meetings:
Raul Ibanez hitting a solo shot was the lone run when KC won 1-0 behind Guthrie’s solid outing. Game two saw Oakland win 8-3 but it was a eight-run fifth that fueled the Athletics with Lester pitching. In the finale Shields pitching eight innings, Omar Infante driving in two runs as Kansas City won 4-2 with Holland picking up his second save of the weekend.

Franchise History:
All-time the Oakland Athletics hold a 306-251 series advantage but in Kansas City trail 140-137 while the Royals are 124-117 at Kauffman Stadium against the A’s.

TV/Radio Coverage:
Three of the four games can be seen on FOX Sports Kansas City with Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler handing the TV broadcast, no television broadcast for Thursday afternoon. Joel Goldberg and Jeff Montgomery host Royals Live before from Rivals in right field. On the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC) will be Royals Hall of Famer/2007 Ford C. Frick Award winner Denny Matthews, Steve Physioc  and Steve Stewart.

AL Central Standings (August 11):
Detroit Tigers (63-52, – GB)
Kansas City Royals (63-53, .5 GB)
Cleveland Indians (59-59, 5.5 GB)
Chicago White Sox (56-63, 9 GB)
Minnesota Twins (52-64, 11.5 GB)

AL Wildcard Standings (August 11):
Los Angeles Angels (68-49, +4.5 GMS)
Royals (63-53, – )
Seattle Mariners (62-55, 1.5 GB)
Toronto Blue Jays (63-55, 1.5 GB)
New York Yankees (61-56, 1.5 GB)
Indians (59-50, 5 GB)
Tampa Bay Rays (57-60, 6.5 GB)
White Sox (56-63, 8.5 GB)

2014 Series Schedule/Results v. Athletics
August 1-3, Coliseum – W 1-0, L 8-3, W 4-2
August 11-14, Kauffman Stadium

Game Notes:
Oakland Athletics
Kansas City Royals