The Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals commence a three-game series tonight at O.co coliseum. Last time these teams played, Oakland was at .500, a mark that now represents a semi-distant goal for the Green and Gold. Entering that series which started April 17, the Royals had only just lost their second game of the year and were soaring with a sense of self-belief that was only matched by the size of the chip on their shoulder.
Last time these two sides met, this happened:
Oh, and this:
That acrimonious series included one reckless slide, three days of bench clearings, plunkings of both the dubiously-intentional and obviously-intentional variety, five Royals ejections, a mini-scandal that I thought should have been named “Schrödinger’s Text Message”, and countless creative interpretations of baseball’s “unwritten rules”.
It was quite the laundry list, and now given the teams’ imminent reunion, the question on everyone’s mind is: will any of that bad blood carry over to this weekend?
If things had gone differently for Oakland and KC in the last two months, I’d say there was a possibility, but at the moment, the A’s and Royals are two teams who have a lot to play for, arguably too much to play for to invite distractions of any kind.
The Royals, with their 41-28 record, have the best winning percentage in the American League and currently sit atop the AL Central. They’re contenders who can’t afford any more suspensions, and they can breathe a little easier now that they’ve proven to the rest of the league that their World Series appearance last year and their subsequent hot start to this season weren’t flukes.
Then of course there’s the fact that the Royals might have gotten that taste for confrontation wiped out of their system after they proceeded to get in an even more serious brawl with the White Sox not long after that eventful A’s series.
The A’s may not have a division lead to defend, but they’ve still got some fight in them (note: probably not of the fisticuffs variety). After weeks of embarrassing defensive work and truly unwatchable bullpen meltdowns, they hit their 2015 rock bottom at 16 below .500 on May 22. Since then, they’re 20-11, and they’ve won 9 of their last 11 games.
The bats have been unstoppable, the bullpen has been surprisingly steady like we expected them to be all along, and it’s been ten games now since Marcus Semien’s been charged with an E6. Brett Lawrie, declared persona non grata by the Royals, is on a hot streak of his own, batting .347 with 15 RBI in June.
No one wants to mess that up. There’s a strength of belief among A’s fans right now that hasn’t surrounded this team since, well, since around the time of that last series in KC.
Something else that seems to have gotten lost amidst the brawls and beanballs is that the April series between the A’s and Royals kicked off with former-Royal Billy Butler receiving his 2014 ALCS Championship ring in a feel-good ceremony that was nothing but agreeable. Perhaps some of those same feelings will abound considering this weekend will honor the Athletics’ Kansas City roots with players taking the field Saturday in throwback 1965 Kansas City Athletics uniforms.
Bad blood or not, get excited for what looks to be three eventful games between two of the hottest teams in baseball. Just don’t expect that any of the knocks, punch-outs, or batteries will be literal this time around.