Let’s take a quick look at where the Royals and Cardinals sit right now…
The St. Louis Cardinals start what could be the last significant series of their regular season tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers. St. Louis looks to hold or increase a 3.5 game lead on the chasing Pirates, who open against Boston in PNC tonight. The Red Sox are coming off a spoiler-ific series against Kansas City in which they beat the Rumblin’, Stumblin’ Royals three out of four games.
If the Cardinals can win their three-game match against the Brew Crew (2 games to 1), and the Sox can triumph over the Pirates (2 games to 1), the Redbirds’ lead in the central will be a comfortable 4.5 games with just 9 games to go — all against sub-.500 teams.
Across the state, the Kansas City Royals play the Chicago White Sox for game two of what has become an important series for the home team. The Royals hope to both gain ground on the Tigers for the division lead (they trail by 1.5 games) and add to their lead over Seattle for the second AL Wild Card spot (up by 2.0 games). Beating up on the White Sox is becoming increasingly important as KC prepares to host Detroit for the final time this weekend.
(As an interesting aside, the Royals are also playing for home field advantage in the Wild Card game by catching and passing the sinking Oakland A’s, who currently lead KC for the top WC spot by just a game. That would mean a LOT to a bitter, starved fan base that hasn’t seen a playoff game played in Kansas City since 1985.)
If the Royals can win the next two games against the White Sox and then take two of three against the Tigers, they could find themselves either a half game back of Detroit with 7 games to go, or in the lead by a half game when they visit Cleveland on Monday (depending on how the Tigers play the final two games this week against the Twins — losing both games is not likely).
Here’s the big problem for the Royals…they have to convincingly outplay the Tigers over the final stretch of the season, for two reasons.
The first is the regular season beat down Detroit has given the Royals in nearly all of their previous match-ups. Because of the Tigers’ 5-11 record against KC this year, a tie atop the division will go to Detroit for the AL Central title. Second, the Royals have that nasty little suspended game to wrap up against the Indians on the 22nd…a game that KC trails in the bottom half of extra innings by two runs. Mark that down as a loss, meaning the lead by the Tigers is virtually 2.0 full games rather than 1.5.
That all means the Kansas City Royals have to gain 3 games on the Detroit Tigers over the next 12 games — three of which are head-to-head — and one lost-cause suspended game.
And now let’s assume both the Cardinals and Royals make the playoffs…
The state of Missouri will be in a constant state of panic for the entirety of October.
Ever since 1985, both fan bases have simultaneously longed for and feared a rematch. After all, KC fans have the luxury of being the team that won, and that’s something Royals fans aren’t ready to give up anytime soon, especially considering the complete absence of anything else of value to come out of the Royals’ organization over the last 29 years.
On the flip side, Cardinal fans have clung to the notion that a blown call at first base was responsible for their defeat by Kansas City. If a recent World Series between the two teams ended in KC’s favor, they would have no one to blame but themselves. And if the last three decades have taught them anything, it’s that the terms “sportsmanship” and “humility” mean absolutely nothing in KC.
In other words, a second I-70 series could actually render time and space irreparable in the heartland. The unmatched paranoia of St. Louis fans and the beer-soaked bitterness of Kansas City diehards may spill over and contaminate everything America believes about midwestern hospitality and soft-spoken, small-town folk.
The damage to the moral, stable, and consistent core of America’s identity may be too much for the country to sustain. Frogs and locusts may fall from the sky. Dogs and cats sleeping together.
Basically, all the worst parts of the Bible…right here…in the great state of Missouri.
The truth is, the rest of the country isn’t ready for a rematch of the I-70 series. They can’t handle a Royals and Cardinals World Series match-up.
Pray it doesn’t come to pass. Pray hard, America.
The LA Angels may find out how hard life is without Albert Pujols…and at the worst time. After poking a three-run double to left field with the bases loaded, Pujols pulled up lame at second base last night. He ultimately left the game with what the Angels are calling a hamstring cramp. Hmmmm… For anyone that’s watched Albert over the years, the look on his face as he walked down the dugout steps to get evaluated was worry and irritation. He was genuinely concerned about the rest of his regular season. Sure, it could be a cramp, but most fans know that no one gets diagnosed with a serious injury in September if there’s any way to avoid it. The expanded 40-man roster makes it and the DL unnecessary, and strapping a key player with a serious strain or injury only puts the club in a more-heavily restricted corner when it comes to options. Albert may have only a cramp, but it could very well be worse and that could mean Pujols limping his way through the playoffs with LA. Watch the next two or three games to see if Albert favors his bum leg, or even makes the lineup. If I know Albert, he’ll talk his way into at least DH-ing, even if his leg is hurting.
It’s too bad Joe Kelly won’t get to pitch in the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Boston Red Sox series. Cardinal fans still love to root for the quirky starting pitcher with the blazing fastball, and having the opportunity to do so against the team chasing St. Louis in the division could have been fun. Unfortunately, Kelly got the win in the last game of the Red Sox/Royals series, so his next turn won’t come until after the Sox leave PNC. That still leaves Allen Craig, another St. Louis favorite and former Cardinal, to do damage against the Pirates and help his former team…but his .111 batting average, 0 RBIs, and 1 run scored in his last ten games is not encouraging. Here’s hoping for at least a temporary turn around for Craig. Maybe he can be The Wrench in the works for the Pirates’ division title hopes.
Mike Matheny needs to sit Matt Adams for as long as humanly possible. Adams’ oblique continues to be an issue. After getting benched for a couple starts earlier this month, Adams is out again with stiffness and soreness in his side. Xavier Scruggs and other Triple-A players were called up for a reason. Let them spell the big and burly first baseman for a while so the Redbirds can count on his bat in the lineup come October. If he goes down, the Cardinals do NOT have a viable option to replace him in an NLDS, NLCS, and/or World Series. They need to make sure he’s right before heading into the postseason.
— GO CARDS!!!