Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Kansas City Royals
The Royals put a damper on the Twins’ hope for having home field advantage in the post season by unleashing a near non-stop onslaught against the Twins’ formidable pitching staff. In the first two games, the Royals scored twenty runs. The Royals have a chance to influence post-season seeding again to conclude the 2010 season versus the Tampa Bay Rays. If the Royals sweep the Rays, the Rays will go from being the number one seed to the number four seed in the playoffs. With a division title and playoff implications on the line, the Rays can ill afford to slack off against a team that scored over twenty runs in the past three games.
Game 1: Matt Garza (15-9) vs. Zack Greinke (9-14)
Matt Garza is getting his last start before the post-season begins. He is one of the key ingredients for the Rays’ ability to maintain pace with the Yankees all season long. He has one start against the Royals this season back on April 29th. He went six strong innings, giving up only five hits and one run.
Zack Greinke is going for his last attempt at reaching double-digit wins this season. For him, it would be a building block going into next year and a personal statistical milestone. If he pitches like his Cy Young caliber self, the Rays will have to take advantage of any mistake he makes. Last time Greinke faced the Rays he was nearly unhittable. He went eight strong innings and only gave up four hits and one run while striking out six. Despite this excellent performance, he took the loss due to the Rays pitching staff’s shutout performance.
Game 2: James Shields (13-14) vs. Bruce Chen (11-7)
James Shields has been on a roller coaster this season in terms of his effectiveness. At times, he has been forced to take early exits as he did against Florida in June (3.1 innings/ 10 ER). In other instances, he was very solid as he was against the Yankees two weeks ago (6.1 innings/ 1 ER). It is difficult for me to see him as a starter for the Rays in the post-season because of this inconsistency.
Bruce Chen is trying for win number twelve to cap off his most impressive season since 2005. He does have some quality experience against the Rays when he was with Baltimore. This will mark his first start against them this year. He is coming off an impressive outing versus Cleveland. He pitched 6.2 scoreless innings but wound up not being a part of the decision.
Game 3: Wade Davis (12-10) vs. Kyle Davies (8-11)
Last time Wade Davis got a start against the Royals, he pitched a magical seven scoreless innings against Zack Greinke. Since then, he has pitched .500 ball. He has not won a game since September 11 while visiting Toronto. Despite this fact, his ERA in the month of September has dropped steadily with each start.
Kyle Davies has a chance to tie a career high in wins if he can earn the victory on Saturday. His most recent start against Tampa Bay was back on May first of this year. He lasted six innings while striking out six, walking five, and giving up just two earned runs. In his last outing, he was shelled by the Twins. He lasted only 3.1 innings and gave up seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks. In order for him to get a strong consideration for next season he will have to have a solid outing against the Rays.
Game 4: David Price (19-6) vs. Sean O’ Sullivan (4-6)
David Price, a Cy Young candidate this year, will finish off the season for the Rays. Depending upon how the first three games go, he could be the man the Rays count on to bring home the division title, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He has a chance to join the 20-win club in just his second complete season in the majors. Back on May first, he ended up not being a part on the final decision against the Royals. He went six innings and gave up two earned runs on just four hits. In his most recent start though, he pitched eight shutout innings against Baltimore.
Sean O’ Sullivan did something for the Royals that was more than just a “W” in the standings in his second-to-last start. Because of his quality pitching performance against Cleveland he assured the Royals would not suffer a 100-loss season this year. He also has the opportunity to make a stronger case for the Royals to keep him around for next year if he is able to repeat his winning performance against the Rays.
The Royals were hot in the series against the Twins. With those performances, the Royals were able to move into a tie for second in the American League in team average. The Rays have been on and off the past few games, including a 2-0 loss against Baltimore on Wednesday. The Royals batters have a chance to do some damage to the Rays’ post-season expectations. Billy Butler and Mike Aviles have been swinging the bat really well all September. If the leadoff hitter can get on, this will give these two hitters a chance to drive in some runs.
Going into this season the Royals thought they had improved on the defensive side of the ball. According to the numbers, they have not. This will be a point of emphasis going into the off-season. In contrast, Tampa Bay is ranked third in the American League in fielding percentage behind two other Playoff bound teams (New York and Minnesota).
This is another point in which the Rays and the Royals are polar opposites. The Rays are ranked second in team ERA, first in saves and third in strikeouts. The Royals rank fourteenth, fifth and eleventh in the same categories. The Royals need solid outings by their starters in order to set the game up for closer Joakim Soria. If each of them can go six or more innings while keeping the game close, this will allow Soria to attempt to eclipse the forty-five save mark.
The Royals are playing for pride and evaluating talent for next year. The Rays are battling for a division title and playoff seeding (even though they are guaranteed a spot). The big question is, will the Rays finally cave under the pressure that they have been under all season or will they prove that they are the best team in the A.L. East?
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