Aug 10, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) celebrates with teammate Billy Butler (16) after hitting a two run home run against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Oh Lorde, Another Royals' Series

The A’s are traveling to Kansas City to face a Royal team that has won seven in a row, and ten of eleven. With their recent hot streak, the Royals have pulled within a half game of the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central lead. As we saw last weekend, this team can be tough to beat, but there is plenty of reason for optimism.

The first reason is that the A’s offense has come to life with the return of its engine, Coco Crisp. Cars need engines to work, and so does the A’s offense. Since the Royals left town, the A’s have scored 28 runs in seven games, good for a 4 runs/game average. With the pitchers the A’s are throwing at the Royals, four runs a game could be plenty.

The A’s also have their four aces/four horsemen taking the ball for the series. While this should be a great matchup for them, the KC staff that ranks 3rd in the AL in ERA (3.58), while the A’s rank 2nd (3.18). Seattle ranks first (2.99).

This series will have a playoff feel to it, with runs being at a premium.

The pitching match ups for the series favor the Athletics, but as we saw last Friday, the Royals can get a solid performance from anyone, even Jeremy Guthrie.

Sonny Gray (12-5, 2.87) vs. Yordano Ventura (9-8, 3.47)

Jon Lester (12-7, 2.44) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (8-9, 4.35)

Scott Kazmir (13-4, 2.73) vs. Jason Vargas (8-5, 3.68)

Jeff Samardzija (3-1, 3.08) vs. James Shields (11-6, 3.25)

As dominant as James Shields was in Oakland last week (8 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER, 2 K’s), he is even better at home (3.12 home, 3.34 road). The A’s offense will have their work cut out for them. On the bright side, the A’s are 6-1 in games that Samardzija starts. This game will be the marquee matchup of the series.

To learn a little more about the Royals, I talked a little with Mike Vamosi of Kings of Kauffman. Here is what he had to say.

Swingin’ A’s: The Royals have won 7 in a row, and 10 of 11. What has been the key for them during this hot streak?
Kings of Kauffman: Offense, offense and offense. The team had pitched and defended well most of the season which has lead to most of their success but the offense has been inconsistent until the last week and a half. This team can grind but the bats have made things more comfortable. In addition Billy Butler is hitting like himself, taking pressure off of Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Oddly enough this has all occurred with Eric Hosmer out and Butler playing in the field (which you guys saw the ill effects in Oakland). Also it’s got the be the Sung Woo Lee experience right!!! *Seriously check out that story if you haven’t*

SA: it seems as though the Royals are a very streaky team. They had a run like this earlier in the season, and closed the divisional gap in June. Is it just the offense waking up, or is there more to it?
KOK: I think it’s currently a combination of things but the offense is mostly the cause of this because taking two of three at O.co, and then following it up with sweeps at Arizona then versus San Francisco in front of big crowds at the K. But yes, this is a streaky bunch which seem to be finding a groove with their bats.

SA: With the Royals just .5 game out of first in the AL Central, what do you think their chances are of taking the division away from the Tigers?
KOK: Well the guys above my pay grade say it’s a 59% for KC and 55% for Detroit and not being a scientist I’d say the odds are in favor of the boys in blue. In all seriousness, the Royals have an easier schedule and do two things better than the Tigers, which are play defense plus have a bullpen that can protect the lead their starters give them. There’s so much baseball left but in September they’ll hardly see winning teams, which happen to be New York and Detroit. Outside of that it’s a parade of under .500 squads.

SA: On a similar note, what is one area that Kansas City is superior to Detroit?
KOK: The bullpen. Detroit has struggled all season there, and when they thought Joakim Soria was the answer he got hurt while Joe Nathan continues to struggle. Kansas City on the other hand: sure they have Scott Downs and Jason Frasor in the bullpen, but NO ONE in the league can shorten a game if the starter goes six or more innings when you have Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland to shut the door. Bias, absolutely. But the numbers show that with Davis/Holland in the 8th and 9th there are few if any that can match them.

SA: As everything stands, the Royals would be the second wild card. Is there a team you’d prefer to play in the playoffs?
KOK: Well in this scenario it means that they’ll be in the “playoffs” for the first time since 1985 so beggars can’t be choosers. But as everything lays out, and having to choose from a group of Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Toronto I’d go with the Blue Jays. My reasons for choosing our neighbors to the north is KC has done decent against them this season and they lack an ace (which truthfully so does NY but I like the postseason history with Toronto more).

SA: Who do you think means the most to the Royals winning ways?
KOK: Honestly, hard to say but probably James Shields, and not for the reasons you might be thinking, but rather, the attitude he brings to the clubhouse that the guys seem to feed off of. Shields was brought in to lead this team to the playoffs and over his last few starts is doing just that after a rough couple of months. Second tier honorees for me are Alex Gordon, who is a quiet leader but is respected in the clubhouse as a guy who puts in the work and gets results. Salvador Perez also gets a nod for how he handles the pitching staff and for the fact that he has gotten key hits this season in his quest to be the best catcher not named “Molina” in the game.

SA: Is there any chance the Royals can re-sign James Shields in the offseason?
KOK: Sure, just like there’s a chance the A’s can get Jon Lester back but it’ll cost Kansas City. Ownership has spent more on this roster and made the promise to spend at the deadline (which they didn’t). Honestly, I’m not sure how this turns out, outside of a draft pick coming to 1 Royals Way at some point in the offseason with Juego G going to a bigger market (which I assume will be out west) with cash. I’m an optimist but also a realist. I would love to be wrong about this.

SA: Lastly, who do you think wins the series?
KOK: I’m going to take the coward’s way out and say that this series ends up in a split. Yes, I know talking everything up only to pick essentially a tie between these two. KC hasn’t lost since leaving the bay area while Oakland dropped two this week, but with the Royals throwing Yordano Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and Shields I think two wins are possible even with Sonny Gray, Lester, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija going for the green and gold. Oakland will want revenge while Kansas City will want to show taking a series versus the best team wasn’t a fluke and I feel the result is a split.

Thank you to Mike for all of this intel. Now we know how to beat the Royals. Good luck this series!

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