As the shock of what baseball fans everywhere just witnessed in the ALDS begins to wear off, the realization that none of it really matters anymore will soon set in. Come Friday, the ALCS will begin and with it comes the promise and opportunity of satisfying two hometowns that haven’t seen their team partake in a Fall Classic in almost 30 years.
During the regular season, the Kansas City Royals took four of seven contests from the Baltimore Orioles, out-scoring the birds by a margin of 26-18 over the season series. However, all seven games were played early on in the season (April 25-27; May 15-18) and should have little to give in terms of a true preview considering how drastically different each team has changed and developed since then.
In terms of the Orioles alone, April and May were two months need be forgotten as they were 27-27 and 4.5 games back of first place on June 1. Baltimore’s roster has also changed dramatically since the month of May: lost Machado, Wieters and Davis for most of the season to injury or suspension; added Miller, De Aza and Johnson at the trade deadline; and found a new closer on the fly in Britton.
With all of these changes in mind, today, the Guardian Liberty Voice will be giving a more in-depth preview and prediction into a series that is sure to amaze.
Pitching – Both of these teams are very similar in their pitching. Both starting rotations have done a bang up job and both bullpens have been in complete shut down mode since the All-Star break. However, if forced to choose one pitching staff to go into the ALCS, the choice would go slightly to the Orioles. With the addition of Andrew Miller at the trade deadline, paired with the move to put Kevin Gausman at long relief, should any starting pitcher fail early, the O’s have proven to be able to easily withstand it. And although Kansas City’s bullpen have been nothing short of amazing this postseason, the amount of weapons are just not the same should Baltimore jump on one of their pitchers early. Advantage: Orioles
Hitting – Small ball vs long ball. In the home run category, Baltimore is first in the majors and have relied heavily on the long ball in order to score runs in bunches. Kansas City, on the other hand, was the only team in the league to hit fewer than 100 home runs this season. However, they excelled mightily in manufacturing runs with a league-high 153 stolen bases (Orioles had a league-low with 44). So far, the playoffs haven’t been much different.
The Royals in just four games have stolen 12 bases, which is ten more than any other team, and have eight combined sacrifice hits, which is five more than any other team. Both teams have belted four home runs, but the O’s have done it in 50 less at-bats. The Orioles can be a streaky hitting team and as of right now, they happen to be streaking in the right direction. Among teams still playing, they have the least amount of strikeouts (15), the second-best batting average (.263) and the second-highest on-base percentage (.330). After batting as well as they did against the American Leagues last three Cy Young award winners and now playing in a seven-game series at home, the nod has to go to the O’s. Advantage: Orioles
Fielding – Again, both teams have done extremely well in this facet of the game, putting up highlight reel catches, double plays and assists. The difference maker and overall advantage for one of the two teams, although extremely slight, will have to be the outfield. For Baltimore, from left to right, it is De Aza, Jones and Markakis. For Kansas City, it is Gordon, Cain and Aoki. Both outfields display impeccable athleticism and playmaking ability. However, the slight edge goes to the Royals thanks in part to Lorenzo Cain’s ridiculous Game Three performance. Also, in Game Two and Game Six of the ALCS, when KC goes with projected starter and left-handed Jason Vargas, the Orioles will more than likely counter with Delmon Young. Young in left field would be an upgrade at the plate, but would also be a slight downgrade in the field. Advantage: Royals
Ned Yost vs Buck Showalter – Showalter has had to deal with an ever-changing roster all season long and was still able to lead the O’s to the most wins in franchise history. That being said, Yost and the Royals have played in a much more managerial controlled system all year-long. Kansas City is a team that has relied heavily on manufacturing runs and a stellar bullpen, both of which are in total control of Yost. Not to knock on Showalter given that he has always been a terrific bullpen manager, but the big names and bats of the Orioles have carried them through a lot of games this season. The same cannot be said looking at the Royals lineup. Truth-be-told, any GM in the league would be extremely happy to have either one of these guys leading their teams in the field of battle. But for this series, the nod goes to the small ball team. Advantage: Royals
Series Prediction – It is hard to believe that the O’s will be able to dismantle the Royals bullpen as much as they did in the Angels series, especially with the amount of heart and resiliency displayed by the boys in blue. With that being said, it would appear that most of, if not all of, these games should be determined by one or two runs, going by way of the team that displays a small chink in their armor. However, do any of these teams really have that much of a chink in their armor to take advantage of?
For the Royals, perhaps their bullpen could be their chink with Kelvin Herrera still dealing with a forearm strain. But even then, the four days rest should help ease that pain. For the Orioles, perhaps their chink is displayed through their starting pitching. But even if the starting pitching should falter early, as shown in Game Two of the Tigers series, the O’s bullpen can shut any team down with their perfect blend of long-and-short and left-and-right-handed relievers.
In a series that looks to dazzle in a slew of close games, it may just to come down to timely hitting paired with timely mistakes. Both teams have excelled in both of these facets of the game throughout their first two playoff series, but when it comes to a Game Seven played at home for Baltimore, the nod goes to the team with the home crowd behind them. The timely hitting of Kansas City finally gets stopped by the bullpen and defense of Baltimore in the final three innings and the Orioles advance to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1983. Orioles Win Series 4-3
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer