2 to Go!

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Two seems to be a pretty important number right now for the Kansas City Royals.  It is currently the number of games they trail the Detroit Tigers for the A.L. Central title.  And it is the “Magic” number to clinch a playoff birth for KC for the first time in 29 years.  While the wildcard is not the best case scenario, I doubt you would be able to find one person in Royals Blue who would turn it down!  With only four games to go, this “Magic” number could be ZERO by the end of tonight’s game in Chicago!  The buzz around KC is amazing, and I for one am incredibly excited for the possibility of the post season!  So excited I thought I would take a look at possible playoff rotations (yes I just knocked on wood) for the Royals.

It sort of goes without saying, but the ace of the club and person with the nickname “Big Game,” James Shields is a must for any play-in game the Royals come across.  If that is between the Tigers for the A.L. Central title, or the A’s for the wildcard, Shields must have the ball.  He has proven time and time again he will rise to the spot light.  Shields is also the pitcher on the Royals with the most playoff experience.  During his time in Tampa Bay he pitched in six postseason games highlighted with a win in the 2008 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.  In my opinion he would not only start the Play-in Game, I would also make sure to bring him back by game 3 of the A.L.D.S. to help close the door on the Orioles or Angels.  Depending on days off after that, I would also try to get him as the game one starter for the A.L.C.S. if possible.  Thus opening him for a possible game 4 start, which could also line him up for a possible game 7 appearance if necessary, or game one of the World Series.  (I feel like I may have gotten ahead of myself there…but it is fun to dream!)

I don’t care if you play the “Hot Hand” card or “Body of Work” card for picking your line-up, but Danny Duffy (pronounced Dew-Fee from now on thanks to Salvy Perez) has to be your next in line.   The guy that once said “Bury me a Royal” has had one of the best years of any left hander in the game!  On the season Duffy has posted a 2.32 ERA and looked electric in his last start.  Shaking off some rust from nearly 3 weeks of rehab, Duffy promptly got out of a bases loaded no outs jam in the first inning.  He then went on to cruise to a scoreless outing!  This is the Danny Duffy we have come to almost expect, after flirting with perfect games, and winning more games this year than he has in his entire career combined, he seems to be perfect for the next option.  I think Duffy would start game one of the A.L.D.S. if Shields has to start a play-in game.  This would be ideal as it would also for the opposing manager to shift the line-up some.  A south paw after a righty would keep some of the platoon guys from getting any continuity at the plate, and make sure some of the bigger bats don’t get to feast of side of the plate.  And besides, this guy literally told people when told he could make so much more money going to another place they could “bury him a Royal!”  You don’t think he is going to be fired up for this game! ?!?

My third guy is also a youngster, but this fireballer proved he does not shrink under the spotlight.  Yordano “Ace” Ventura has had the most impressive season of any “true” rookie pitcher.  If it weren’t for the seasoned “rookie” from Cuba, Jose Abreu, Ventura would be a solid pick for the Rookie of the Year Award.  In 179 innings, “Ace” has already struck out 153 guys.  He is posting a 3.07 ERA and has a chance to win his 15th game this weekend.  With a fastball that consistently tops the fastest average fastball for any starter, he is a flame thrower that can stymie even the best offenses.  In his last outing he held Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and the rest of the playoff hopeful Indians to no runs through 7 innings.  He too escaped a bases loaded jam with no runs.  These two young Royals give fans a lot to be excited about this postseason, and for many more postseasons to come!  I think Ventura gets game two of the A.L.D.S. and stays as the third man in the rotation.  It also keeps the righty after a lefty rotation in order.

Now to the tough question.  Do the Royals go to a three man rotation.  and if they do not, who is the 4th starter, and who moves to the bullpen.

Personally I would like to see a three man rotation, but I don’t think we will (or probably even should).  By the end of this season both Duffy and Ventura will have surpassed their previous mark for most innings pitched.  They will have both eclipsed the magical 150 innings mark, and will be in territory all together new to them.  This will also be the most high stress pitching they will have ever done.   So a fourth man in the rotation may be a necessity just for their arms and mindset’s sake.  Going into September the no questions asked number two pitcher for a playoff rotation was Jason Vargas.  Vargy was incredibly consistent, and had some moments of brilliance on the mound.  If it weren’t for a lousy appendix he would have probably met his career high in wins, and strikeouts.  But then September happened.  Vargy blew up.  He has looked incredibly pedestrian in his last two outings, giving up 4 runs in 4 innings last night, and aiding in a 10-1 loss to the Tigers on Friday.  Right now I think he should be the odd man out.

In Vargas’ place is the savior of the Jonathon Sanchez trade Jeremy Guthrie.  “J-Guts” has a knack for quality starts, followed by a terrible start.  You don’t earn a 4.28 ERA with a few shut-outs mixed in without giving up some big run games.  The key here is, Guthrie usually tips his hand pretty early if it is going to be an off day.  Thus, if he doesn’t have it, Vargas in the pen could come in to sweep up the damage early.  You also have the Jeremy Guthrie that pitches brilliantly–ala the Oakland 1-0 CG or his outing last week against Boston when the Royals had to have a win.  He went 8 innings giving up just one run.  To me Guthrie may have to be the 4th man in the rotation.  Another reason I would like to see him in this role is his intangables.  The guy is a veteran who knows his role.  Where he may not enjoy getting skipped during a series, he is a professional who will take it in stride and come out and dominate when his number is called.  I fear a rookie, or young guy may not have that ability.  Thus I think J-Guts is our number 4.

No matter what Ned Yost and his coaching staff choses, isn’t it awesome just to be able to sit back and ponder what WILL be, instead of wishing that this is what could be!  Let’s go Be Royal tonight and close this thing out.  Next to Kauffman Stadium there is no place I would rather the Royals pop bottles of champagne than in the Eye of that no talent a$$ clown Hawk Harrelson!!!  Let’s do it boys!!!

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