The Oakland Athletics are returning to the MLB Playoffs in 2014, having clinched a spot in the one game Wild Card against the Kansas City Royals. The game will itself will be played on Tuesday in Kansas City, with an 8:07pm ET / 5:07 PT start time. After winning the AL West the prior two seasons, this will be the A’s first exposure to the one game, play-in game that began in MLB in the 2012 season.
Bob Melvin reset the rotation several times in the final month of the season to give the game ball to Jon Lester for the play-in game. Lester, of course, was acquired by Billy Beane at the trade deadline this year to put the A’s over the top. At the time of the trade, the A’s had the best record in baseball and looked to be adding to the pile. However, due to a lack of offense, injuries, and some plain old bad luck, the club has backed itself into the playoffs. The Angels have been red hot and easily overtook the A’s for the best record in the AL West and in all of baseball.
Jon Lester’s record in the postseason is 6-4 in eleven starts. However, his ERA is 2.11 with 68 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched. With the entire season on the line in one game, Melvin will rely on Lester to get the A’s to the ALDS and then figure out when he can give him the ball again in four or five days.
In seven head-to-head match-ups during the 2014 season, the Royals beat the A’s five times. The A’s won one of three at O.co and only one of four in Kansas City. Ironically, the two games that the A’s won were games in which Jon Lester took the mound. He received a tremendous amount of run support in those two games as well, as the A’s won 8-3 in Oakland and then 11-3 a week and a half later in Kansas City.
Heading into the All Star break, very few people would have believed it would have taken the A’s 162 games to clinch a spot in the AL playoffs but that is exactly what had to happen. The A’s struggled with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels the last two weeks of the season and it came down to Sonny Gray’s performance on Sunday to beat the Rangers and lift the A’s squad into the playoffs.
The winner of the Wild Card game will advance to the ALDS and travel to Anaheim to begin the best of five game series. That series will begin on Thursday.