Kansas City fans have been waiting 29 years for this moment, and the lineup they'll see in the franchise's first postseason action since 1985 is akin to what they've been seeing all season.
Against Oakland left-hander Jon Lester, manager Ned Yost has a lineup of nine regulars led by All-Stars Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Five of his starting nine are right-handed (Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Billy Butler, Perez and Omar Infante) and four are lefties (Nori Aoki, Eric Hosmer, Gordon and Mike Moustakas).
Lester is 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA against the Royals in his career, but a handful of Royals hitters have success against him in the last five years. Aoki is hitting .444 in nine at-bats, Cain is batting .313 in 16 at-bats, Escobar is batting .353 in 17 at-bats, Hosmer is batting .308 in 13 and Perez is batting .500 in six at-bats against the Oakland ace.
1. Alcides Escobar, SS 2. Nori Aoki, RF 3. Lorenzo Cain, CF 4. Eric Hosmer, 1B 5. Billy Butler, DH 6. Alex Gordon, LF 7. Salvador Perez, C 8. Omar Infante, 2B 9. Mike Moustakas, 3B
With the right-handed James Shields on the mound against the A's on Tuesday night, Oakland manager Bob Melvin worked deep into his depth chart to put together his lineup for the AL Wild Card Game.
Sam Fuld is in left field in favor of Jonny Gomes (a .165 hitter against righties, as opposed to .276 against lefties), while Brandon Moss is the designated hitter with Adam Dunn (still searching for his first postseason at-bat) on the bench. Stephen Vogt is playing first base, and Geovany Soto is catching in favor of All-Star Derek Norris. While Norris has caught all 11 of Lester's starts with the A's since the lefty was traded from Boston, Soto is in the lineup for defensive purposes to curb Kansas City's formidable basestealing. Soto has thrown out 43 percent of attempted stealers to Norris' 17 percent this year, and has saved an additional three defensive runs this year, according to FanGraphs.
"They steal a lot of bases. Soto has done a great job with that," said Melvin. "He's worked very well with all the pitchers on our staff since he's come over. He's acclimated very quickly. They like throwing to him, and he's got a better history right now of throwing guys out. And swinging the bat well, too.
"Certainly we look at all sides of it, and that was definitely one of the sides we looked at."
Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick will hold down their regular spots in center and right field, respectively, with Josh Donaldson at third base and Jed Lowrie at shortstop. Eric Sogard gets the nod at second base in favor of Alberto Callaspo.
1. Coco Crisp, CF 2. Sam Fuld, LF 3. Josh Donaldson, 3B 4. Brandon Moss, DH 5. Josh Reddick, RF 6. Jed Lowrie, SS 7. Stephen Vogt, 1B 8. Geovany Soto, C 9. Eric Sogard, 2B