Barring a colossal collapse, the Kansas City Royals will waltz to a playoff berth.
The Los Angeles Angels looked like a playoff team in late July but have been spiraling downward ever since and are in danger of no longer being in line for a wild-card spot.
The Angels look to avoid losing grip of a postseason spot for the first time in 6 1/2 weeks in Sunday night’s series finale in Kansas City.
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By beating Los Angeles 9-4 on Saturday, the Royals (70-46) can move a season-best 25 games over .500 with a victory in the finale.
Another win coupled with a Minnesota loss would also give Kansas City its first division lead of 13 games since it won the 1980 AL West crown by 14. The Royals have a 100 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to MLB’s official website.
Things are much more dicey for the Angels (60-56).
After leading the West by two games and having a seven-game cushion in the wild-card race on July 22, Los Angeles has gone a major league-worst 6-16 to fall 2 1/2 games back of first-place Houston and is one-half game clear of Baltimore for the second wild card.
A loss in the finale and a win by the Orioles would drop the Angels out of a playoff spot for the first time since July 2.
Albert Pujols ended a season-worst 14-game streak without a homer with his 31st, but Saturday’s starter Matt Shoemaker was knocked around for six runs in 1 2-3 innings.
"Today," manager Mike Scioscia said, "is just a one we’ve got to turn the page on."
The problem with that is this has been an ongoing problem for the Angels. Their starting pitchers have a 5.16 ERA in the last 22 games after being at 3.53 on July 22, and Hector Santiago’s struggles have coincided with those of the team.
The left-hander is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA with six home runs allowed in his last four starts after posting a 0.95 ERA while not surrendering a homer in winning the prior three.
Santiago (7-6, 2.87 ERA) surrendered a solo homer to Kendrys Morales and allowed two other runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 4-2 loss to the Royals on April 10. He has a 1.53 ERA in 11 games against Kansas City – his lowest ERA against any opponent he’s faced more than twice – but he’ll be facing a couple of Royals who are locked in at the plate.
Eric Hosmer has two homers and five RBIs in this series and is batting .415 with 25 RBIs and a 1.154 OPS in his last 18 games.
Salvador Perez started Saturday and had a homer and a double after having the previous three games off to rest an ailing right wrist.
"I guess it’s good," Perez said of his wrist.
He is hitting .367 with seven RBIs in his last eight games and is 7 for 18 with three home runs against Los Angeles this season.
Perez’s batterymate Yordano Ventura (7-7, 4.97) has been hit or miss in five starts since the All-Star break, posting a 9.56 ERA in three games and an 0.69 ERA in the other two. Against Detroit on Tuesday, the right-hander allowed two hits and matched a season best with eight strikeouts but issued a career high-tying six walks in six scoreless innings of a 6-1 win.
"He wasn’t crazy wild. He was just missing," manager Ned Yost told MLB’s official website. "He was aggressively into the game. … He was the old Ventura of last year."