Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Here we are. The season began before April, and now the playoffs are getting underway before October. That feels weird. It also feels weird that the Royals are still playing baseball even though the regular season is over. That’s a good kind of weird, though. Hopefully, the Royals’ season can actually continue into October, which would feel so weird, yet so right.
Tonight’s game at Kauffman Stadium is going to be, simply put, incredible. James Shields and Jon Lester are two of the best pitchers in the league, and they will be facing off in a one-game playoff with a chance at the ALDS on the line. The K is going to be absolutely bonkers tonight, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be there.
There are a ton of really good articles with playoff previews and storylines, but I tried to limit this weeks’ links to just a few for you.
– At Royals Authority, Aaron Stilley wrote a great piece on Jon Lester. It’s no secret that Lester has had his way with the Royals in recent years, but the author breaks it down a bit more, to see if there are any Royals who have success against guys similar to Lester, since the samples are obviously pretty small. Needless to say, Lester’s really good, and the Royals’ offense will need to step up if they hope to advance in the playoffs.
– ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian asks five questions about tonight’s game. He wonders how the Royals’ offense got here, if the A’s still have an offense, and how much of an impact the Royals’ defense and bullpen can have on the outcome.
– Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs has an article on James Shields’ terrific changeup, particularly about how it wasn’t terrific earlier this year, but now it’s terrific again. Shields’ best pitch is back to looking like his best pitch, and that has paid huge dividends in the second half of the season. Now the Royals hope it will pay dividends for at least one more start.
– Yahoo! Sports’ Mike Oz broke down each of the 25 potential World Series matchups, and ranked them based on how interesting each series would be. The Royals check in two times in the top five, in this particular subjective ranking system.
– Speaking of subjective ranking systems, the Wall Street Journal published an article on which teams that neutral fans should root against this postseason. It’s based upon recent success, payroll level, player suspensions, and fanbase smugness, among other factors. The Royals came in last, which hopefully means the rest of the country will be pulling for the boys in blue tonight, and for the rest of the playoffs. The Cardinals, shockingly, topped this hateability list.
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– Ben Lindbergh wrote an article for Grantland that attempts to dispel some myths about playoff baseball. Among them: the idea that second half success – or lack thereof – carries over into the postseason, that experience significantly matters in October, and that pitching wins championships. Fans often want to ascribe some specific reason to each playoff victory or defeat, especially when a more talented team loses. Generally speaking, the real reason for those cases is that baseball is a silly game that does silly things sometimes.