I feel like we wrote this story about two months ago, only to have the hype and promise immediately dissipate… so it is with some trepidation that I say the Royals can actually make the playoffs? Wait, try that again the without the question mark. The Royals can actually make the playoffs.
The American League Central is once again the tightest division race in all of baseball as the Royals won their sixth straight and ninth in ten attempts to close to within just 1 ½ games of the much more highly touted (and paid) Detroit Tigers. They will go for the sweep of the Giants today while the Tigers try to take the rubber match against the Blue Jays. In addition to closing the divisional race, they’ve also edged ahead of Toronto, Seattle and New York in the race for the second wildcard spot. I have no particular affinity for the Royals, but man would it be good for baseball and the perception of a lack of parity to have Baltimore, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Kansas City all enjoying some October baseball.
Let’s salvage a rough week with a Sunday afternoon winner.
Today’s Free Pick:
Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners (Total: 8)
John Danks (9-7, 4.93 ERA) vs. Erasmo Ramirez (1-5, 4.35 ERA)
The Mariners were narrowly edged last night to lose their first game in six tries. In that stretch, they’ve actually lost ground to the Royals in the wildcard race. The pressure is ratched up for everyone the last six weeks of the season as several long-suffering fan bases urge their teams towards rare post-season berths. Getting the ball for one such club is Erasmo Ramirez.
Ramirez has just a lone victory on the season, and that win came in his season debut on April 1st. He has bounced in and out of the rotation, garnering a few spot starts here and there, and pitching well in his last five relief appearances with a 1.33 ERA. Today is actually a big game for him, and there is a little more pressure on him than in a normal ChiSox v. Mariners game in the middle of August. He will have to navigate a talented Chicago lineup today including the MLB homerun leader Jose Abreu.
John Danks is a sure-fire bet to pitch better today than his last outing. Not that I’m saying he is a sure-fire winner today, but it is unlikely he will surpass the gem he hurled in their 16-0 loss to the Texas Rangers. He went four innings and surrendered 11 runs (WHY was he in the game long enough to surrender ELEVEN RUNS??!? But I digress…). I expect Danks to bounce back a little, but I’m not expecting him to shut down the M’s either.
This game has OVER written all over it. One struggling pitcher facing another spot-starter who will face a tough lineup? This one should have some fun Sunday afternoon fireworks.