It’s been nearly a year since the Cardinals last played the Kansas City Royals. And the Cards in-state rival is certainly in a much different place now that they were when the teams matched up in 2014.
Last year, the Cards hosted the Royals for two games at Busch Stadium on June 2-3 then were the visitors for two at Kauffman Stadium on June 4-5. It was definitely not a good four-game series for the Redbirds, as they lost both games at home before winning the first in K.C. and losing the second. After the final game, the Cardinals record was 31-30 and they were in second place in the NL Central and five games behind the Brewers. We obviously know how that Milwaukee lead held up …
Winning those three games gave the Royals a record of 29-31 and boosted them up from last place in the AL Central to a fourth-place tie with the Minnesota Twins — though both were just four games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers.
Obviously, things improved from there as the Royals went 60-42 throughout the rest of the regular season to clinch one of the AL wild card spots. After the crazy comeback win in 12 innings over the Oakland A’s in the wild card game, they swept their way through the ALDS over the Angels and ALCS over the Orioles to meet up with the
stupid, awful, lucky San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
And the Giants are the team the Cardinals saw last October also, in the NLCS, as we unfortunately remember. Before playing for the NL pennant, the Cards went 59-42 through the rest of the regular season to win the NL Central plus defeated the Dodgers in the NLDS.
Now, coming into tonight’s game, the teams are rather evenly matched. The Cardinals have the best record in MLB at 27-14, with a 3.5 game lead in the NL Central. The Royals, at 26-14, have the best record in the AL and a 2-game lead in the AL Central.
Leading the majors in team batting average right now: the Royals, at .288, with the Cards average of .266 fifth in MLB and third in the NL. Pitching-wise, the Cardinals have the best ERA in baseball at 2.79 while the Royals are third, and best in the AL, at 3.24. The Cards starters have the best ERA in the majors at 3.07 (the Royals are 19th — yes, that’s correct — at 4.21) while the Royals bullpen has the best reliever ERA at 1.61 (Cards are third at 2.28).
Oh, and one other “evenly matched” note: since the two teams met up last year, the Cardinals have gone 86-56. So have the Royals.
The pitching match-ups are Lance Lynn vs. Chris Young tonight, John Lackey vs. Danny Duffy tomorrow night and Michael Wacha vs. Edinson Volquez on Sunday afternoon. Of the three Cards, of course Lackey has faced the Royals the most times. In 10 career starts, he’s 3-4 with a 3.54 ERA. He’s made four of those starts at Kauffman Stadium and is 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA. Lynn and Wacha each have two career starts against the Royals, with Lynn giving up 8 earned runs in 12.1 innings while Wacha allowed 4 in 13 innings.
No double we’ll hear much about 1985 and the I-70 Series that year throughout the weekend’s broadcasts, and it is exciting that both teams are doing well. (Side note: since I was a Cubs fan in 1985, I harbor no ill-will toward that season’s World Series victory by the Royals.)
And seeing good teams play good baseball is always good, right? (Even though I am a little nervous about the series.)
Chances are we’ll also hear at least once (or once a game, or — giving the Chatty McChatterson Cardinals TV broadcasters — even once an inning) how this could be a preview of another I-70 World Series again. Which, as we could see from last year alone, is impossible to predict at this point of the season.
But, if it does happen, I won’t be rooting for the Royals this time around.