Look for the Kansas City Royals to score first at home against the Oakland A’s; go with it at 2.15
There are two factors I’m looking at with this first proposition for Tuesday’s playoff opener – the American League Wild Card Game.
The first is how well these two teams have been hitting over the past two weeks. Which respective line up comes in hotter? The answer is resolutely the Royals. Over the last fourteen days, Kansas City has hit .288 with a .348 on base percentage and a .393 slugging percentage. These are all strong numbers. In contrast, the A’s have limped into the playoffs with a .226 batting average, .315 on base percentage and a .313 slugging percentage over the same period. In other words, they haven’t been winning with their bats.
Then I’m looking at how each team’s batters have fared against the opposing starters. While the Royals have hit a middling .251 in 258 plate appearances against Oakland starter Jon Lester, a number of batters, who often hit early in the Kansas City lineup have very good track records versus the lefty. Lorenzo Cain (.313 batting average), Eric Hosmer (.308), Nori Aoki (.444) and Salvador Perez (.500) could all get at bats in the first two innings in this game and push a run across.
On the other hand, Royals’ starter James Shields has held Oakland hitters to a .217 lifetime batting average in 224 plate appearances. It’s hard to find a single batter who has a good history against Shields with the exception of Josh Reddick (.318 batting average and three home runs in 22 career at bats). Assuming Shields can navigate past Reddick, guys like Brandon Moss (.214), Coco Crisp (.214), Adam Dunn (.200) and Josh Donaldson (.222) don’t have much to boast about when looking back on their work against the Kansas City pitcher.
The combination of current hitting form and historical work against starters gives the Royals the decided advantage.
Consider going under 6.5 runs at 1.87 in this Wild Card matchup
Even with Shields’ excellent relevant history coming into this contest, I don’t expect a run-scoring fiesta. This is the third year of a winner-take-all Wild Card game in Major League Baseball and these contests tend to be low scoring. Admittedly the sample size is small, but two of the games ended with an aggregate of six runs or fewer. A third game has only five earned runs (but saw four additional runs scored thanks to three errors by one club that really reflected an aberration). In the only other Wild Card contest the teams totaled eight runs.
While Shields might have an advantage here based on past work, both these starters are good. And, while Lester may be susceptible to yielding a run or two, his overall playoff work is excellent. He owns a 2.11 ERA in 76 2/3 post-season innings. Throw in the fact that these clubs both have excellent bullpens and the odds are in favour of a white-knuckle low-scorer.
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