If the Kansas City Royals 12-inning, 9-8 magical marathon, walkoff win over the Oakland A’s in the AL Wild Card classic on Tuesday is any indication of how this season’s MLB playoffs is going to shake, then in the words of ex-NFL joker Terrell Owens, “Get your popcorn ready.”
Of course this is Major League Baseball we are talking about and KC's comeback favored an NFL team scoring three TDs late in the third and fourth quarters to pull out a win.
After looking as clueless as a blind detective investigating a blood-stained murder scene in his first five at-bats, Royals catcher Salvador Perez finally made contact in his sixth and final at-bat and his single down the third base line was the winning hit for a young KC team that withstood the playoff pedigree of Jon Lester, two huge home run by Brandon Moss (just his third since the Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester trade) and several seemingly insurmountable situations, including a 7-3 deficit.
Kansas City, in the postseason for the first time in nearly 30 years, fought back to tie the game in the bottom of the 12th and won it in the way they’ve been winning games all year.
In my AL Wild Card preview I told you to watch out for the Royals’ speed which produced an MLB-high 153 steals. Even in a one-game elimination Ned Yost’s boys held true to form, stealing seven bases, the last of which put Christian Colon in scoring position and eventually catapulted Perez into the MLB record books.
The Royals advance to face the LAA Angels in a five-game American League Division Series that opens Thursday at Anaheim.
The A’s go home stuck on stupid and with the sore reality that their genius GM gambled by trading slugger Cespedes—and lost. Despite being a team many believed was built for a long postseason run given the starting rotation of Lester, Jeff Samardzjia, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, Beane obviously wrecked the offensive chemistry of the team which resulted in the worst second half performance by a playoff team in MLB history. To put it bluntly; he jacked everything up. In the end, the devastating loss was a microcosm of the A’s two-sided season.
“We got off to a fast start, we were able to take a big lead and, unfortunately, down the stretch, we weren’t able to nail it down,” closer Sean Doolittle said. “That’s kind of the way the season went as a whole.”
Expect Wednesday’s NL Wild Card Game between the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates to be a nail biter as well. Teams play with a heightened fire during a one-game elimination. There’s no pacing yourself like in a five game or seven-game series. Everybody is all in and pushes their talent, concentration and will to another level.
San Francisco has history and the numbers on its side. If the Giants’ post season pattern of the last four years holds true, then they should win it all. The Giants won the WS in 2010 and then 2012. It is 2014 isn’t it?
First, Bruce Bochy's guys have to get past an emerging Pirate’s team who is looking to go deeper in the playoffs than last year when they broke a string of 20consecutive losing seasons. They expect to be the team facing the NL East-champion Washington Nationals in the NLDS jumping off Oct.3.
Frisco ace Madison Bumgarner will be facing veteran Edison Volquez, who has emerged as one of the hottest hurlers in the game. Bumgarner is a proven pitcher who has done his thing in World Series wins before, but during the regular season The Bucs won four of six games against San Fran and out-homered the Giants 6-2.
Bumgarner is a lanky lefty with an awkward delivery and poised on the hill. He has a more than respectable 3-2 record with a 3.79 era and 32/9 K-to-BB ratio with a WHIP of 1.32 in seven postseason starts.
The key to recent Giants WS wins has been dominating pitching. The Pirates have better hitters in 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen and crew, but the way Volquez has been hurling the rock, the odds on the mound battle is even. After sporting a robust 5.71 ERA in playing stints with the San Diego Padres and LA, Volquez has a 1.85 ERA over 111.2 innings pitched in 17 starts since June 23rd. Opponents have batted .230 against him during this period and he’s also riding an 18-inning scoreless streak.
In Volquez’s only previous playoff start, he allowed four runs in 1.2 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 National League Division Series. Regardless, he leads the team in wins (13), earned run average (3.04) and innings pitched (192.2) and he’s the guy manager Clint Hurdle wants in the clutch.
San Francisco has to find some offense as usual, especially with Angel Pagan out. The Giants win at a .615 clip with Pagan in the lineup and their winning percentage is .451 when he doesn’t play. Pablo Sandoval is a crafty postseason hitter but he is enduring a streak of 0 RBI in 15 of his last 16 games.
If Pirate’s catcher Russell Martin is unable to go because of injury, that will help the Giants tremendously. Martin is a key cog in this Pirates starting lineup and a veteran leader.