A baseball season is a long and winding road filled with rough spots and smooth stretches, and all the ups and downs that come with any journey. As the 2014 season winds down, the Tigers and Royals have taken very different roads but wound up in the same spot. The Tigers have played 152 games and won 84 of them. The Royals have played 151.95 games (they played 9-1/2 innings against the Indians before the game was suspended due to rain. They will finish the game on Monday, starting in the bottom of the tenth with the Indians leading 4-2) and won 83 of them. The two teams will play three games this weekend, the Tigers entering with a tiny half-game lead.
Game one on Friday night will feature Tigers former-ace Justin Verlander facing off against the Royals' Jason Vargas. Both have struggled recently, and both team's offenses will look to capitalize. Both offenses are also coming out of a three-game series in which they scored 15 runs. Check out Rob's preview here, if you haven't already.
Saturday's matinee will feature a whale of a pitching matchup, as Max Scherzer is scheduled to face James Shields. Scherzer and Shields each recorded a win in the last matchup, as they didn't face each other. Scherzer held the Royals to a single run through 6-2/3 innings, while Shields blanked the Tigers over seven frames. Both are coming off of good-not-great outings in which they lasted seven innings, but did not record a decision. There's some rain is the forecast, so hopefully that doesn't dampen a classic pitcher's duel.
On Sunday, Rick Porcello and Jeremy Guthrie will face off in the final regular season matchup between these teams (barring a tiebreaker game). Porcello pitched a gem in the finale of the last series against the Royals, but was out-dueled by Shields. Six days later he needed only 103 pitches to last eight innings against the Twins, holding them to only two runs. Guthrie is also coming off of a great start, in which he shutout the Red Sox through eight to record his 11th win of the season.
A Tigers sweep would put them firmly in first place and, if the Royals fail to perform magic in their makeup inning, would give them a four-game lead with seven games to play. On the other hand, a Royals sweep would allow them to lose their postponed inning and still sit in first place by two games.
This is by far the most crucial series so far this season for both teams. Kauffman Stadium will have a playoff atmosphere, as droves of Royals fans show up to spur their team to its first postseason appearance since 1985. This one's a big one, folks. How do you see it panning out?