One of the great things about the double wildcard teams is the idea of a sudden death style playoff game. Baseball gets a taste of the NFL for one night with two teams squaring off for safe passage to the Division Series. The Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics both had their reasons to make it into the next round of action. Only one made it out alive and it was an epic battle. 12 innings, lead changes, up and down, back and forth, with the two teams fighting for a chance to move on. All these two teams did during the second half was fight.
The Royals hadn’t been to the playoffs since I was 3 years old, or 1985 when Don Denkinger became famous for all the wrong reasons and Kansas City won the World Series over the Cardinals. They had flopped around over the years and had a few false starts. For the most part, the Royals could produce a good half season of baseball before the baseball police located them. In 2014, things were different. They proved they belong and made it into the postseason wildcard matchup. I remember a series in KC with the Cards that qualifies for the blast off point for the KC team. They beat us in a series and launched into a boxing match with Detroit. While the Tigers won their 4th straight division title, the Royals got a chance to find their way in the back door.
Billy Beane’s gamble at the trade deadline, sending Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs while unloading a serious amount of young talent, didn’t pay off. He threw the hail mary and once again the A’s lost an elimination game. At one point Tuesday, the A’s led 7-3 and seemed to be taking control. The Royals didn’t hit a lot of home runs and a four run lead felt safe. Kaufman Stadium got quiet. Oakland was set to move on. Then the Royals pecked away and came back. If you ask me, Beane isn’t a bad GM but a man without the best laid plans. He turned down the Boston offer ten years ago and sits in Oakland trying to figure out different ways to bring something special to an organization that hasn’t tasted paradise since La Russa was there. It’s hard to be angry with what Beane is trying to do but also hard to disregard the gamble that ensues every year.
One of the best parts of watching Tuesday’s battle was it didn’t involve the St. Louis Cardinals putting fans through the grinder. If we are going to lose, I would rather the Birds do not go gentle into the cool dark night. Then again, I’d prefer a different method than coming back from a 3-2 game, take a 7-3 lead, blow it, get a 8-7 lead, blow it only to lose everything. Baseball is a fickle sport. It asks for a lot from its fans and this time of the year can be painful. I felt bad for Royals starter James Shields because it looked like Ned Yost took a fighter out of the ring, put someone else inexperienced in only to have his ass kicked(the five run Oakland sixth inning). Shields should have been allowed to lose that 3-2 lead himself. Suddenly, in the 12th inning, I looked at the A’s and felt the same thing. A tiny bit of sadness but I was glad they were eliminated. Oakland was the better team overall. They just choked it up Tuesday.
Friday is still TWO LONG days away folks. Get some more rest. If that game last night was any indication, October could be a brutal month for all baseball fans. The Pirates and Giants play tonight, and I don’t have a preference for the Cards. The Bucs would be easier but getting revenge on the Giants for 2012 would be sweeter. We shall see.
This much is known. The Royals are in and the A’s are out. Tonight, another team bites the dust. Friday, it all begins. Long winded torture. 5 game and 7 game series. Head to head. Managers squaring off. Big pitching. Timely hitting. The works. Like I said, get some rest.