If you want to live on the edge, try suggesting to Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny that this final week of the 2020 regular season is meaningless, other than evaluating talent for the years to come.
The Royals will try to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals for the second straight night Tuesday, after claiming a 4-1 victory in the opener of a three-game series Monday night at Kauffman Stadium. Matheny feels that his team has plenty to play for this season.
"We've had plenty of opportunities for these guys to come in and complain, and we haven't seen any of it," he said Monday afternoon.
"Our conversations have been very similar from day one until tonight, and that's to (show) consistency. We've got to be consistent regardless of where we are in the standings. We owe to ourselves, each other, the Royals and the fan base, that we go about this game the right way every single day."
The Cardinals (26-25) are now tied with the Reds for second in the NL Central, which carries an automatic playoff berth. They're a half-game ahead of the Phillies and a game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants. The Cards will host the Brewers for a five-game series beginning Thursday. With the standings that tight, any loss is magnified.
"They all count," St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. "The wins are important at the end of the year when you're fighting, and so are the losses. A couple of balls bounced their way and that was really pretty much the story of the game."
Shildt will send Austin Gomber (0-1, 2.37 ERA) to the mound Tuesday. Gomber is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two appearances (one start) against the Royals. He threw 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief against the Royals on Aug. 24 and owns 6 2/3 scoreless frames versus Kansas City.
Following this series, the Cardinals return home to face the Brewers, and then potentially a doubleheader in Detroit if the make-up games are necessary.
"That's what I've been managing and talking about with these guys since we came back," Shildt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You're talking about a group of guys who are absolutely laying it out there in the most unprecedented circumstances in possibly the history of sports. I'm not an overly dramatic, hyperbole kind of guy. That's pretty much fact. When you have a lot of energy taking place, you're more susceptible to physical and mental fatigue."
The Royals (22-32) are all but eliminated from the 2020 postseason, but they still have the ability to affect the National League playoff race. The fact that the opponent is the club Matheny played for from 2000-04 and managed from 2012-18, makes any victory sweeter.
But Matheny is focused on his current team and his current players, especially the young ones.
"I've enjoyed this season, especially when you think about the fact that so many people thought this was never going to happen," he said about the 2020 season.
"Truth be told, there are going to be some guys who've had a chance to play in the major leagues this year who may never get a chance to get back here."
One of the players who debuted in 2020 who almost certainly will be back, is Brady Singer (3-4, 4.14). Matheny will get to see Singer one more time, and that's got to lift his spirits. In Singer's last two starts, he has pitched eight and six scoreless innings, allowing one and two hits respectively, in victories at Cleveland and Detroit.
--Field Level Media