Oakland Athletics To Begin World Series Quest In Kansas City Against Royals


Everyone associated with the Oakland Athletics can take a collective exhale.

The A’s are in the postseason again, and the quest for the first World Series title since 1989 begins. It all starts with a winner-take-all wildcard game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo. on Tuesday.

It looked a little shaky there for a minute. Didn’t it?

The A’s were giving fans little hope that Game 163 could be avoided.

The offense looked anemic against the Texas Rangers on Friday and Saturday while the Seattle Mariners were playing the Los Angeles Angels, a team resting players and are already looking toward the American League Division Series. The Mariners also had Cy Young-favorite Felix Hernandez on the mound to make matters worse for the A’s.

If the A’s had to play an extra game, this scenario, outlined by Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, would have become a real possiblity.

Thankfully, for the A’s and their fans, Sonny Gray refused to let the idea of Game 163 become a reality tossing his second career complete game shutout to send the A’s into the postseason for the third year in a row.

So now with the grueling 162-game season out of the way the A’s can now focus on doing the only thing that matters in October: Win 12 games and grab rings for everyone.

It won’t be easy, however.

The Royals stand in the A’s way and the Royals aren’t going to just allow the A’s to head back to California for a meeting with their AL West rivals.

The two teams are similar in a number of ways.

They both struggle offensively at times, relying heavily on their pitching staffs to get the job done.

The A’s have the edge in starting pitching, while the Royals’ bullpen might be better than the A’s.

James Shields is expected to be on the mound for the Royals. In two outings against the A’s this season he went 1-0 with one no decision and has allowed five runs on 11 hits.

Shields, in his career, has been effective against the A’s hitters. The A’s hitters are hitting just .215 with five home runs against the right-hander. Josh Reddick has had the most success against the Shields, having hit three home runs against him.

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The A’s counter with superstar Jon Lester, who came over from Boston in the most ballyhooed deal of the season.

Lester is 3-0 against the Royals this season with a 2.61 ERA. He has also threw a no-hitter against the Royals back in 2008.

The difference between the two teams is playoff experience.

The Royals are experiencing the postseason for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president (1985).

Shields owns a 4.96 playoff ERA in seven career starts and is probably the most experienced Royal playing in the game.

The A’s, on the other hand, are playing in the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Lester has a reputation of being known as a big-game pitcher.  He owns a 2.11 ERA in 13 career postseason appearances and a pair of World Series rings to show for it.

Offensively, things are slowly coming around for the A’s, as well.

Despite the 3-4 mark over the past seven games, the A’s have scored 27 runs and tallied 58 hits. The team still isn’t hitting for power (10 extra-base hits), but it’s an important thing to note that the team is finding some semblance of offensive rhythm.

Combine that with strong pitching that’s been there throughout the season, it’s the perfect recipe for success in October.

So A’s fans take a second to breathe, because the fun is just beginning.