The Royals are four wins away from a World Series appearance.
Go ahead, read it again. I had to.
After sweeping the Anaheim Angels in the ALDS, the Royals will now face the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS, and look for their World Series appearance in 29 years. The Orioles also swept their ALDS opponent, the Detroit Tigers. That’s probably a good thing for the Royals, because they weren’t very good against Detroit in the regular season.
The Royals went 4-3 against the Orioles in the regular season, and these two teams are actually more similar than what you might think. There are a few glaring differences, but nonetheless, I’d say these teams are pretty evenly matched.
Neither teams walks or strikeouts much, and have a solid pitching staff that has gotten them to the postseason. Baltimore, however, led the league in home runs, while the Royals finished dead last. Although they may not be able to match the fire-power of the O’s, the Royals dominate the base baths, which kind of makes up for their lack of power.
In their seven games against Baltimore, the Royals hit .257 and scored 26 runs, which ranked 9th among teams that played Baltimore. Alex Gordon and Nori Aoki were the top hitters, each getting 10 hits in 29 at-bats. Salvador Perez ranked sixth in batting average against the Orioles, behind Danny Valencia, Justin Maxwell, and Jarrod Dyson.
The pitching match-ups have been set for games 1 & 2, but the rest are undecided. I’ll be taking a look at game 1, and then outlining some keys for success for the Royals if they want to win the series.
In his two starts against Baltimore, April 27 and May 18, James Shields was pretty much lights out. He went 7 innings in both games, and had huge run support, 8 & 9 runs. He only allowed 3 runs in the May 18 game and 2 runs in the April 27 game.
The Royals faced Chris Tillman only once in the regular season on May 16, a game which the Orioles won, 4-0. That was a 5 hit complete game for Tillman. Despite that solid start from Tillman, the Royals actually hit him pretty well. They have a career .289 BA against him, but only a .161 BA in their one game against him this year.
Shields has fared a little better against the O’s, with a career .250 BA against them. Most of those stats were compiled while he was in Tampa Bay, but even as a Royal he still pitches well against the O’s. Lately, Shields hasn’t really been the dominant ace he was early in the season, but hopefully the week of rest can help him.
This should be a pretty good pitching matchup, and I predict might be a close one. The Royals kind of have the advantage against Tillman, but Shields has given up home runs in both of his postseason starts, and Camden Yards is the perfect ballpark to do that in. The Royals will need to continue their offensive hot streak to win this game, and the series.
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
Alex Gordon: The Gold Glove left fielder has hit terribly in the month of September, and hasn’t really made a difference in the postseason. It seems as though he’s getting more impatient at the plate, and striking out in key situations. He did have a big double against Anaheim in game 3 of the ALDS, but other than hasn’t shown much. The Royals will need him against the Orioles.
Pitchers other than James Shields: This hasn’t been a problem yet in the postseason, but it certainly can’t become one. Ventura will get the start for game two, and needs to be throwing fire like he usually does. It’s unclear as to who will start after game two, but nonetheless, every pitcher needs to go at least six innings to give the team a chance to win.
Stolen Bases: The Royals are really good at stealing bases, and need to keep doing it. The speed game has been their key to success thus far, and any deviation from it would be a concern. We know the Royals can steal bases, but the second part of that is bringing runners home. They’ll also need to do that to win the series.
Moose and Hos: We saw an unusual offensive outbreak from these two against Oakland and Anaheim, and it needs to continue. There’s no doubt both have failed to meet expectations in terms of power-hitting, and one can only hope this is the start of a new beginning for them. If they can hit home runs to keep pace with the Orioles, the Royals should be in good shape.
The Final Verdict:
The Royals have what it takes to win, and are probably the most determined team in the playoffs right now. They are full of energy and passion, and have a drive to win. They take care of all the little things, and capitalize on opportunities when they arise. Ned Yost may not be taking a traditional route, but it’s worked thus far.
The Royals went 4-3 against the Orioles in the regular season, and I think they’ll win this series in two less games. Give me a split at Camden Yards, and a sweep at home to finish off the series, 4-1. The Royals are going to the World Series, and it’s going to be amazing to watch.