Argue all you want about the one-game Wild Card playoff, but Bud Selig was right about one thing. Adding a second Wild Card to each league makes the end of every MLB season far more intriguing for far more teams. This year, the Kansas City Royals still hope to be included in the drama late into the regular season. The closest team KC needs to hurdle is a 55-52 Seattle Mariners club that leads the Royals by half a game in the chase for the last AL Wild Card spot. How does KC matchup against their closest target?
Even though both teams consider pitching their strong suit, Seattle has the upper hand on KC in that field. Hisashi Iwakuma has been a serious Royal killer over the last few years, but he only has Seattle’s third-best ERA among starters this season with a still respectable 3.07. The officially legit Danny Duffy is the only Royals starter with a lower ERA than Iwakuma’s this season.
Chris Young edges Hisashi out with a 3.04 ERA as of now, and the awesome Felix Hernandez is posting a possible Cy Young-winning 2.01 through 23 starts. It’s no wonder why the Mariners retain baseball’s lowest team ERA, WHIP and opposed batting average.
The Royals are similar to Seattle offensively, but it should go as no surprise to fans in Kansas City that their team lacks efficiency. Despite KC having a team batting average .020 higher than the Mariners’ .244, the Royals rank 26th, just one position higher than Seattle, in total RBI. So, what is it that makes the Royals a better pick than the Mariners for the final Wild Card spot? It all comes down to the strength of Seattle’s remaining schedule.
The Mariners play 31 games against teams with winning records to finish the regular season, including several series against tough divisional competition like the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics. KC, on the other hand, plays 35 games against losing teams and should feast on a stretch of bottom dwellers in mid-to-late August. It may go against all expectations, but the pesky Royals still have a chance to overcome the Mariners and others if they can beat up on bad teams through that road trip.