AL Wild Card Game: OAK vs. KC — 12 Innings of purgatory

Thus begins the Yankees-lite time of the year… not to say there isn’t anything Yankee-related to talk about. There always is, but the Yankee-heavy blog posts won’t return until after some other team wins the World Series in just a few weeks.

In Kansas City tonight, the AL Wild Card candidates fought for their chance at the sole Wild Card spot to face the Angels in the ALDS beginning on Thursday. So to face off tonight at Kauffman Stadium, amidst a sea of powder and palatinate blue, the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals faced off. The Royals are in the post season for the first time since they won the 1985 World Series; that’s 29 years, which is longer than a good portion of their starting lineup have been alive (only 11 of their 25-man roster were alive when the Royals won in 1985). The A’s have flirted with the postseason 7 times in the last 14 years, but failing to get to the Series since 1990. In other words, both teams came into tonight’s game hungry for October baseball.

And it showed in how they played what came to be known affectionately (at least in my house) as “the game that wouldn’t end”. No, seriously, it was a 4 hour and 45 minute game, a 12-innings long intense battle. And it’s Kansas City on to face the Angels.

I won’t recap these non-Yankees postseason games like I would Yankee games, but here’s the basics. It was a lot of back and forth between the teams. Oakland’s offense woke up first in the 1st inning against the Royals’ ace starter to jump into an early lead, but Royals weren’t about to go quietly into the night, taking the lead back in the 3rd. But then the Royals’ pitching staff kind of fell apart in the 6th inning, so the A’s jumped ahead of the Royals 7-3. The Royals chipped away at that lead in the bottom of the 8th, coming within 1 run before tying up the game and sending it into extra innings in the 9th inning.

It stayed 7-7 through the 10th and 11th innings, and it was the 12th inning that both teams made their final push. The A’s moved their guys around the bases to get a run home in the 12th, but then the Royals took it back when they came up to bat, keeping runners on the base just in case. One of those guys scored on a line drive into left field, just barely fair down the line, just out of the reach of the diving Oakland 3rd baseman, just deep enough to score the winning walk-off run for the Royals.

And that would be the Royals first time (legitimately) in the postseason in 29 years. I say “legitimately” because I don’t really consider these Wild Card Showdown games part of the postseason. It’s kind of like purgatory for the two teams that got the closest to the postseason without winning their division title. I’m not a fan of the Wild Card Showdown game in the first place, and while I know some people have issues with the Wild Card in general (traditionalists, usually), I see the need for it as we only have 3 divisions per league. Should they split into 4 divisions, it would eliminate the need for the Wild Card (and inadvertently the Wild Card Showdown Game before that), so maybe that might be the way to go. But alas, until I am elected the MLB Commissioner, I don’t see something like that ever coming to baseball. (No, I’m not starting my campaign, it’s one of the last positions I’d ever want to hold, right up there with President, Astronaut, and being famous in general.)

Anyway, the Royals have officially clinched the title of the AL Wild Card and will now face the best team in all of Major League Baseball — the LA Angels. Yeah, good luck with that.

And onto Yankees news… (finally, I know!)

Carlos Beltran underwent surgery on his right elbow, the one that’s been bothering him for months and was diagnosed with a bone spur. Despite the diagnosis, pain, and treatments, Beltran still played in a good portion of games this year when not forced on the DL. Today, they removed the bone spur and “loose pieces”. He has about 6 weeks to heal before returning to a throwing/hitting regime and about 12 weeks to being cleared to play. This puts him on schedule to report healthy for Spring Training this coming February.

And Brett Gardner has been nominated for the 2014 Hank Aaron Award. After each team has a player nominated by Major League Baseball, this award is given to the top offensive player in each league. Fans have the opportunity to vote for their choice, which is factored into the vote by a panel of select Hall of Famers, led by Hank Aaron himself. You can vote up to 10 times a day (just filled my quota); voting ends on Sunday, October 5 at 11:59 EST. Finalists will be presented with their awards at a ceremony during the World Series.

Yes, I have postseason predictions, but I’m waiting until the NL Purgatory… excuse me, the NL Wild Card Showdown ends up declaring its winner tomorrow night. Then I think I can make better predictions for the postseason, like I did last year.

Go Yankees!

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