AL Wild Card Picks: Oakland Athletics vs. Kansas City Royals

Joe Gavazzi

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 1:36 PM GMT

Here's your top pick for the Oakland A’s vs. KC Royals AL Wild Card game. They fight for the right to face the LA Angels in a 5-game playoff series with divergent late season momentum. 

Oakland (Lester) (-105) vs. Kansas City Royals (Shields) 8:05 ET TBS
Kansas City was a surprise team in the American League post-season party.  It has been years since the Royals crashed the festivities that have become a part of October sporting history.  Their 89-73 record includes just 42-39 at home.  This is a microcosm of the fact that MLB home teams won only 53% of their games this 2014 season.  The Royals’ success has come as a result of strong starting pitching and a solid bullpen, making up for a mediocre offense.  The lack of experience may have been a major factor which prevented them from overtaking Detroit for the Central Division crown. 

Oakland has become a fixture in the post-season.  This is their 4th consecutive trip.  This one was far from guaranteed.  In mid-season, the A’s looked like the best team in MLB.  They were playing well over .600 ball and made 3 pitching acquisitions to solidify their rotation.  They acquired tonight’s starter, Lester, from the Boston Red Sox plus Samardzija and Hamels from the Cubs at the trade deadline.  Yet, the A’s struggled the final 2 months of the season and needed to fend off Seattle, who won their final 4 games of the season to solidify their playoff spot.  The 88-74 record was characterized by a 40-41 road mark, far dichotomous to their superior home record.  Of major note is that while KC had a +27 run differential for the season, the A’s sported a +157 run net margin of victory, the best in MLB.  The A’s also feature a solid bullpen, making this a tough call in the late innings.

Each of these starting pitchers has solid big game reputations and is in good current form.  Shields enters tonight with a 2.31 September ERA.  In his most 3 recent starts, Shields worked 19 2/3 IP, allowing 9 runs on 21 hits.  Lester is also known as a big-game pitcher with his most notable post-season performance coming with the world champion Boston Red Sox.  Facing St. Louis for the MLB crown, Lester went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA.  Since coming over from Boston in the trade, Lester has made 11 starts with a 2.35 ERA.  He was cruising into his final start of the season, going 3-0, allowing just 3 runs in 21 IP.  But in 7 IP of a 5-4 loss to LAA, Lester allowed 5 runs on 8 hits.  Lester also has a strong history vs. the Royals.  In 13 starts, spanning 88 IP, Lester has a 1.84 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and .196 BAA.  That excellence was confirmed by his 3-0 record vs. KC this season in which he sported a 2.61 ERA.

Strongly prefer Oakland in this Wild card matchup based upon the A’s greater playoff experience, Lester’s success in post-season play last year and his strong history vs. the Royals. 

Free MLB Pick: Oakland A's -105 at Bookmaker

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