ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Royals’ first postseason in a generation took a dramatic turn on the left arm of Danny Duffy and the bat of Mike Moustakas and this is about more than just winning the first game against the Angels in the American League Division Series here last night.
Logically, this was the game the Royals were most likely to lose. This was the one where, at least by the looks of it, the Angels had the biggest pitching advantage. Jason Vargas is a fine pitcher, but obviously struggled in September. Jared Weaver isn’t what he once was but still led the American League with 18 wins and was good enough for a 3.59 ERA over 213 1/3 innings in the regular season. What’s more, his smarts and instincts and soft stuff out of the zone figured to exploit the Royals’ weaknesses.
You know what happened, of course. The Royals won one more wild 11-inning playoff game — the franchise has a playoff win streak that dates all the way back to 1985, you know.
They also put themselves in a great position going forward. According to this, and we should caveat here that the information is a few years old, teams win just 35 percent of five-game series after losing the opener at home. Some of that is just math. Lose the opener, and you have to win three of four. That’s a hard thing to do.
There is no way to know any of this, of course, but it figures that the Royals may have put themselves in an even better position than those numbers would indicate. Vargas pitched very well, but he was the Royals’ worst pitcher the last month or so. Assuming Yordano Ventura’s mind is right, his exploding stuff should be a better matchup against the Angels. Matt Shoemaker, who will start for Anaheim tonight, had an excellent year but hasn’t pitched since Sept. 15 because of an injury.
After tonight, it’s James Shields on regular rest and Jeremy Guthrie at home, where he’s been very good. The Royals are undoubtedly holding their breath on Kelvin Herrera’s forearm — his initial diagnosis mirrors the path toward Tommy John surgery — but should be encouraged that Duffy got through the Angels’ best hitters in the 10th inning last night.
Winning a playoff game is a special thing, and doing it with Moustakas and Duffy excelling in key spots has to boost everyone on the roster.
But what’s even better is how it sets up the rest of the series. The Royals have a lot of work to do, still, but they just put in a tremendously important shift.
Also, the Tigers lost yesterday.