Wow, is this going to be fun week or what?
By PETE GRATHOFF
The Kansas City Star
In the past week, the Royals closed the gap in the wild-card standings, and they head to Cleveland to play a three-game set against the Indians, who are just ahead of KC in the standings.
The Orioles and Yankees, also chasing a wild-card spot, will start a four-game series.
This is September baseball and it's a breath of fresh air.
The Indians, who lost at home to the Mets, say theyll be ready for the Royals.
We took two of three in this series, you have to look at it that way, Cleveland pitcher Joe Smith told reporters. We come back on the horse tomorrow. We need to take care of business when they come in.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer told The Stars Tod Palmer basically the same thing: The last time we went into Cleveland, they swept us, so weve got some business to take care of over there.
It's worth noting that Hosmer hit a home run off Smith at Kauffman Stadium on July 4 in the Royals' 10-7 win over the Indians.
One reason for the big talk between the Indians (2 back) and Royals (3 1/2 behind) is because theyre both closing in on the Rays, who suddenly have a precarious hold of the No. 2 wild-card spot. Tampa Bay is coming off a dreadful trip to the West Coast where the Rays went 3-7 on a swing to Oakland, LA and Seattle.
I know the rotation of the Earth is the same, the sunrise and the sunset, I get all that, manager Joe Maddon told the Tampa Bay Times. But we have just not played our normal Rays baseball out here.
Its a long flight from Florida to the left coast, but Maddon joked about making an intermediate stop in Salina, Kan., to break up the flight.
Im looking forward to the next trip out here, he said. I hope its in late October.
That, of course, would mean making the playoffs.
Getting to the postseason is no easy chore. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said something interesting when asked about the importance of a win last week after Baltimore beat the White Sox.
Theyre all significant from here on out just because of the opportunities that are not there, Showalter told reporters. If we take care of business, it will be an interesting last week of the season. Its as simple as that.
Ive said a bunch of times how this part of the year will inch along and youve really got to fight the urge to think the skys falling or the sky's opening. Its an every day, grind your at-bat, grind your outing. And youll usually like the outcome if you just try to stay in the moment. Its difficult to do. It takes a lot of discipline.
Inch along? Grind your outing?
If theres one trait for the Royals this season, its their ability to grind out wins.
Having said that, here is a look at the week ahead for the wild-card race contenders (and as a reminder, the playoff odds are from Baseball Prospectus):
• Playoff odds: 89.8 percent
• Last 10: 4-6
• Whos hot: Third baseman Adrian Beltre is hitting .322 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs, 23 walks and 21 strikeouts in the second half of the season.
• This week: 3 vs. Pirates, 3 vs. As
• Good for Royals: Yu Darvish has struggled a bit lately and the Rangers have lost 12 of his last 18 starts and are 14-13 in his starts overall.
Bad for Royals: Texas plays 13 of its final 20 games at home, although they havent played well in their friendly confines.
• Playoff odds: 57.0 percent (last week: 83.2 percent)
• Last 10: 3-7
• Whos hot: Outfielder Wil Myers had a good week, hitting .322 with two home runs and three doubles in his last seven games.
• This week: 3 vs. Red Sox, 3 at Twins
• Good for Royals: The Rays scored only 29 runs total in the 10 games and hitting .177 with runners in scoring position.
• Bad for Royals: This past week was first time since mid-May, before David Price got hurt, that the Rays top four starters (Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellicksoin, Matt Moore and Price) are healthy and pitching.
ORIOLES (76-66, 2 GB)
• Playoff odds: 17.2 percent (last week: 9.6 percent)
• Last 10: 5-5
• Whos hot: Scott Feldman has a 1.36 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP in his last five starts.
• This week: 4 vs. Yankees, 3 at Blue Jays
• Good for Royals: The Orioles were 3-for-37 (.086) with runners in scoring position in a four-game against the White Sox and 5-for-54 (.093) in their past six games.
• Bad for Royals: Talk about a solid one-two punch. Last week, Adam Jones and Chris Davis became the first set of Orioles teammates to drive in 100 runs in the same season since Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora in 2008. Its the 10th time in club history it has happened, and the third quickest (139 games) behind only Frank Robinson and Boog Powell (134 games in 1966) and Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla (138 games in 1996).
INDIANS (76-66, 2 GB)
• Playoff odds: 32.5 percent (last week: 9.6 percent)
• Last 10: 5-5
• Whos hot: Ubaldo Jimenez, who starts today, has a 2.22 ERA since the All-Star break.
• This week: 3 vs. Royals, 4 at White Sox
• Good for Royals: Their best pitcher, Justin Masterson, left his last start Monday in the second inning with a strained oblique. (Harsh? Yes. Honest? Yes)
• Bad for Royals: Cleveland plays 14 of its finals 20 games against the White Sox, Astros and Twins. The other six are against the Royals.
YANKEES (76-67, 2.5 GB)
• Playoff odds: 9.6 percent (last week: 6.6 percent)
• Last 10: 6-4
• Whos hot: Second baseman Robinson Cano has a 1.019 OPS in his last 28 games.
• This week: 4 at Orioles, 3 at Red Sox
• Good for Royals: Hard to believe, but Mariano Rivera has blown five saves in his last 13 appearances.
• Bad for Royals: Alex Rodriguez hasnt been the drain on the Yankees lineup that KC fans might have hoped (slash line of .286/.380/.448) since his return.
ROYALS (75-68, 3.5 GB)
• Playoff odds: 1.5 percent (last week: 0.5 percent)
• Last 10: 6-4
• Whos hot: DH Billy Butler hit .429 on the Royals last home stand.
• This week: 3 at Indians, 3 at Tigers
To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff