The 2014 MLB playoffs begin on Tuesday night with the American League wild-card game between the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics. The winner will go on to play the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series.
Not only have the Royals never been a wild-card team, but they are in the playoffs for the first time since 1985. The Athletics have reached the postseason in three consecutive seasons, but they haven’t won a series since 2005.
The two teams met seven times in the regular season. Kansas City had a 5-2 advantage, winning three games in a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium in mid-August.
The Royals will send James Shields to the mound, who’s earned the nickname “Big Game James” because of his ability to perform under pressure. However, the right-hander has struggled in the playoffs since leading the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series. In his last two playoff starts, Shields has allowed 11 earned runs in 9.1 innings, elevating his career postseason ERA to 4.98.
The Athletics will counter with Jon Lester, who was acquired by the team at the trade deadline. The two-time World Series champ has been everything Oakland could have hoped for, pitching to a 2.53 ERA in 11 starts. Lester’s playoff numbers are among the best all-time, including a 2.11 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP in 13 postseason appearances, 11 of which were starts.
Even though the Royals are at home and finished the regular season with the better record, they don’t enter the game as favorites. Both teams have been given a moneyline of -105 at Las Vegas casinos, just hours before the start of game. Kansas City is the worst home team of all the clubs that made the playoffs, going just 42-39 at Kauffman Stadium.
Tuesday’s game is considered a tossup, but the A’s are considered to have a much better chance of winning the World Series. Of all the wild-card teams, Oakland has the best betting odds at Bovada.lv at 10/1. With 18/1 odds, the Royals are the biggest longshots in the entire playoffs.
First pitch is set for 8:07 p.m. ET on TBS. Viewers who can’t watch the game on TV can view a live stream online at TBS.com.