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Talkin’ Pennant Race Blues

This must be what the off-season will feel like.

To sum up: Blah, blah, blah.

Monday was quiet on the Royals front. Too quiet for a Monday in September. But really, at this point is there any need to make any noise? Yeah, we can debate the merits of a six-man rotation, but when 25 percent of that rotation is actually worthy of our attention (talking Jake Junis and a pitch count-limited Danny Duffy, if you were wondering), that’s not exactly interesting or fun to discuss. There could have been news regarding the mystery starter on Tuesday, but do we really care if it’s Ian Kennedy and his balky shoulder or newcomer Sam Gaviglio?

Perhaps the news is that Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain will return to the starting nine for the first game of the series in Toronto after a day off on Sunday. Perhaps a moderately fresh trio can propel the club on a mini-run of success. It’s doubtful that 72 hours (or in the case of Moustakas more like 50) can heal all that ails the key of the Royals core. As Ned Yost and company have made painfully aware over the last couple of weeks, time is short. The luxury to heal and recover from injuries is past.

Or maybe the news is the Royals playoff odds have cratered to just 1.1 percent, losing almost five percentage points in the last week. The odds are the odds are the odds. You don’t need percentages to know the Royals are on thin playoff ice. The standings will suffice.

So here we are. Baseball purgatory.

As discussed in this space yesterday, the Royals are all but eliminated. Yet, as long as they remain alive, even by the slimmest of margins, these games remain important. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. There’s no way I’m adequately prepared for winter at this point.

The Yankees hosted the Twins on Monday in what could have been billed as a Wild Card preview. Minnesota entered the game four games back from the first Wild Card position, so even the idea that the outcome of Monday’s game meant something seemed a little tenuous. The usual cold, impersonal and sparse crowd at the new Yankee Stadium didn’t necessarily vibe playoffs, either.

It was a drab 2-1 ballgame. Aaron Judge smashed his 44th home run in the first. The Twins had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth and couldn’t push the tying run across. Aroldis Chapman dialed his fastball up to 104 mph to record the final out of the game and pad the Yankee lead to five games.

Who cares? I probably should have included a disclaimer ahead of that paragraph that you may be bored enough to click away. The only other game with postseason implications was in Baltimore where the Orioles blew a five run lead and lost 10-8 in extras. They, like the Royals (and the Rays and the Rangers) remain stuck on 73 wins. Holy mediocrity. Seriously, is anyone worthy of the second Wild Card spot?

These pennant races are anticlimactic. Cleveland and Houston have clinched. New York and Boston are battling for the East, but both teams are pretty much assured of making the tournament. That leaves the increasingly humdrum race for the second Wild Card as our only entertainment over these last two weeks of the regular season. That’s not enough. What a bust this season has turned out to be.

On Monday the goalposts moved a bit (if I may mix my sports metaphors) in the Twins loss to the Yankees. The Royals elimination number remains nine, which means the earliest they can be eliminated shifts back a day to Saturday. It may be simply delaying the inevitable at this point, but when the option is six months void of baseball, I’ll hold on to that 1.1 percent sliver of hope. Even if it only buys an extra day.

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