Lester born for big games, ready for Royals

Lester born for big games, ready for Royals

ARLINGTON -- It was no accident when the A's plotted their rotation for the final two weeks of regular-season play that Jon Lester lined up for a potential start in a one-game playoff.

Now that it's official, with Oakland traveling to Kansas City for Tuesday's American League Wild Card Game at Kauffman Stadium on TBS, the A's have bottled up all of their confidence and handed it to their ace, who will be opposed by right-hander James Shields in a 5 p.m. PT matchup.

"We had Jon targeted for this," said manager Bob Melvin. "That's why you have a guy like that. When he takes the mound, the team's going to feel awfully good about their chances."

"We've got a great opponent against us," said Lester, "and we're going to give it our best shot."

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

Acquired by the A's at the Trade Deadline to not only get them to the postseason but help them navigate through it, Lester is essentially the reason this team seemingly holds the edge in this matchup: He's 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 13 career starts vs. the Royals, including 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in three outings against them this season, two with the Red Sox and one with the A's. He also no-hit the Royals in 2008.

Yet Lester's outing was the only game the A's won in a four-game set at Kauffman Stadium from Aug. 11-14. Kansas City also took a three-game series in Oakland in early August, showcasing its relentless running game that could potentially haunt an A's catching staff that has collectively struggled to slow down the game's speedsters.

Opponents were successful in 100 out of 128 stolen-base attempts against Oakland during the regular season, though newbie Geovany Soto threw out eight of his 16 runners, which is why the A's will likely go with him over Derek Norris, who caught just eight of 68 attempted runners.

On the other side of the battery, both clubs not only possess feared starters but intimidating bullpens, which should turn this matchup into a well-balanced affair.

"I think it's a similar matchup," said shortstop Jed Lowrie. "They have a really strong bullpen, I think we do, too, and it's going to be two frontline starters pitching for one big game. It should be a good game."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.