Game one of the American League Championship Series begins tonight in Baltimore. The Kansas City Royals will take on the Baltimore Orioles with the winner heading to the World Series in this best of seven series. Both teams have won the World Series but neither have done it in over 29 years. In many ways the ALCS will be a blast from the past.
The Royals have not made the playoffs since they won the whole thing back in 1985. Throughout most of the 90s they were a forgotten franchise, an afterthought, and never really a contender. Even this year the odds were still against them winning very many games, and making the ALCS. They ended up getting hot at the right time. During the second half of the season they traded spots with the Detroit Tigers for the lead in the American League Central. They ended up falling short of the division title and had to settle for a Wild Card spot. In recent years, Major League Baseball added a second Wild Card team. The two teams do not get a full series, rather a one game play in game.
The Royals hosted the play in game against the Oakland A’s. The A’s started out the season, and made it through most of the summer, as the top team in the league. They were in first place going into the All-Star break. After that, things collapsed for the once mighty A’s. The Los Angeles Angels passed them for the division lead and never looked back. Now, instead of fighting for a top seed in the American League, they were in a four way battle with the Tigers, the Royals and division rival, Seattle Mariners. On the final day of the season the A’s beat the Texas Rangers to secure the second Wild Card spot.
On Sept. 30, the A’s went to Kansas City to reclaim their season. They had a 7-3 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Then, just like their season, things came unglued. The Royals drove in 3 runs in the eighth inning and one more in the ninth to tie the game 7-7. As the game went into the twelfth inning where the A’s scored the go ahead run, Oakland looked to be okay. After a one run triple, Salvador Perez belted a walk off single giving the Royals their first post season win since 1985.
The Royals went on to sweep the best team in the American League and punch their ticket to the ALCS. It only took the Royals three games to take out the Angels. The Orioles also swept their foe, the Tigers, in three games.
With two teams remaining, the ALCS is very much a blast from the past. The ALCS is a stark contrast from the NLCS, which features the two top teams in the last decade. The Giants are looking to make it to their third World Series in the last four seasons. The Cardinals are looking to make it back to back Series appearances, and avenge the loss to the Boston Redsox last year.
While the two teams may mirror each other in their journeys to make it back to where they are, the teams are quite opposite. The Royals had more stolen bases than any team in the majors, where as the Orioles had the fewest. The Orioles, however, knocked out the most home runs of any team in the league, and the Royals. They were dead last. It is a battle of speed against power.
Game one of the seven game series will see Chris Tillman on the mound for the Orioles, and James Shields for the Royals. With the ALCS being two teams who have not made the series since the 80s, and the NLCS being the two top teams in the last decade, one thing is certain and that is the World Series will be an exciting match up no matter which two make it. The ALCS is a blast from the past and has brought in a whole new audience of fans excited to see some new teams in the running for the fall classic.
Commentary by Andy Lapic
Photo by Keith Allison –Flickr License