Baseball Playoffs Began with a Doozie in Kansas City

Last night’s one-game wild card playoff between the Kansas City Royals, who had not been in a playoff game in 29 years, and the Oakland A’s, who went from a six-game American League West Division lead in June to a final-day last-gasp win to secure the final wild card spot and who had not won a playoff series since 2006, was a one-night reprise of a marvelous season for the Royals and a disastrous decline for Oakland.

Like they did during the regular season, the A’s got off to a fast start with two first-inning runs, and eventually built a 7-3 lead, not unlike that mid-season, six-game division lead. But then, the tables turned. In late summer, Oakland traded for two additional starters,

Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, and then made the trade that re-shaped the team and that eventually led to the premature end of their season. They traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, and the A's offensive was never the same thereafter, missing not just Cespedes' power in the middle of the lineup, but also seeing an offensive decline from top to bottom of the lineup. And, while Lester won some big games down the stretch for his new team, in the end he was not the big-game starter they thought they were getting,
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and last night he was unable to hold a four run, eighth-inning lead.

And, to make maters even worse, the losing run, or rather the Royal’s winning run, scored on a base hit by catcher Salvador Perez off of Hammel.

The Royals won the 12-inning marathon despite a monumental blunder on the part of KC manager Ned Yost. Rookie starter Yordano Ventura had started and pitched poorly just two days earlier, allowing eight hits and four runs, all earned, in four inning Sunday against the White Sox. Yet, when his number one starter got into trouble in the sixth inning last night, rather than going to a professional, experienced reliever, Yost chose to bring in Ventura, and he was promptly greeted with a three-run home run from Brandon

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Moss, who had already hit a first-inning two run homer. That inning saw a 3-2 lead turn into a 7-3 deficit, and with Lester on the mound for Oakland, it looked like the end was near for the Royals. But, they came back against the A's ace Lester and their premier closer, Sean Doolittle, scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth and another, tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and then going on to the extra-inning win.

Since 2000, the A’s are now 0-7 in elimination games, and with Cespedes long gone and with Lester unlikely to be back, the “money-ball” competitive era of the Oakland A’s may be a thing of the past.

So, I did not start out too well, having picked Oakland to win last night’s game. But despite the problems facing the Angels that I described yesterday, they should take the Royals in their five-game division series that begins tomorrow with Jered Weaver going up against most likely Danny Duffy.

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