This series was never supposed to happen. It was projected that these teams wouldn’t even make the playoffs, much less the ALCS with a chance to make the World Series. Yet, here we are.
The Orioles and Royals seem like the same teams: Average but overpeforming rotation, great bullpen and making their living on huge hits late in games. So which team has the advantage?
Let’s go through the aspects of the game:
Yes, the Royals have James Shields, who is a gritty as they come. But the rest of the rotation is extremely unproven, including Jason Vargas and Yordano Ventura. The Orioles are full of unproven starters, but the end of theirs is better than the Royals.
The Orioles have four batters with over 20 home runs. The Royals have none. The Orioles have Nelson Cruz. The Royals do not have Nelson Cruz.
Both bullpens have been fantastic throughout the playoffs, and neither has a clear advantage. The team that has the lead going into the seventh inning will likely win. That would put more emphasis on the offense.
With that said, I think the Orioles have the potential to score big runs much more than I do the Royals. However, it could easily be the opposite.
Orioles in 7
The two hottest teams in baseball are about to square off, as Ned Yost’s Royals are going to take on Buck Showalter’s Orioles.
This is going to be an exciting series, as both teams are on impressive streaks and both swept their division series.
Kansas City offers an impressive lineup, led by Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon, along with the speed of Lorenzo Cain and Jarred Dyson.
Their pitching staff has limited lineups all season and James Shields had an amazing second half of the season.
The bullpen has been phenomenal as well, with Greg Holland and Wade Davis basically untouchable.
Defensively, the team has the future Gold Glove winner in Salvador Perez and Gold Glover Eric Hosmer.
Overall, the Royals are a complete team on paper and look to be unstoppable. However, the Orioles have similar characteristics and will win this series 4-1.
The rotation for the O’s has been underrated all season, with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yen Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez leading the charge.
Zach Britton and Darren O’Day have formed one of the best tandems of set-up man and closer in baseball. And don’t forget to mention the O’s have the best LOOGY left in the playoffs in Andrew Miller.
The lineup has been full of power this season for the O’s, with almost every player having the ability to go yard at any time.
Kansas City is going to have a tough time getting through the Orioles lineup unscathed.
Kansas City will also struggle winning games if they can’t score off of the Baltimore rotation. They had a tough time scoring off Los Angeles, and if that continues; Kansas City is in trouble.
The Orioles have had a fairytale-type season and even after losing three key players; they continue on their run. Don’t expect it to stop anytime soon.
Orioles in 5
The Orioles haven’t made it this far since 1997. That season, the O’s won 98 games, (just two more than this season) under Davey Johnson. The roster featured players such as Cal Ripken Jr, Mike Mussina, Chris Hoiles, Roberto Alomar, and current MASN broadcaster, Mike Bordick just to name a few.
Things have changed since the O’s last made the ALCS (American League Championship Series). The Orioles played the New York Yankees, a team that now did not make the postseason, and started what was referred to as the Jeffrey Maier Curse.
Derek Jeter hit the controversial home run that Maier caught over the outstretched arm of Tony Tarasco. This season was Jeter’s final season. The Orioles won 96 games this season and captured the AL East crown for the first time also since 1997. The Royals and Orioles have faced each other before including playing six regular season games against each other where the Royals would win the season series by only one win.
This time of year is usually when high schools begin hosting their homecoming dances. The ALCS will be a homecoming of sorts for former Oriole pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. The 35-year old right hander spent five seasons (2007-2011) as the Orioles “ace” before being traded to the Colorado Rockies for Jason Hammel in the winter prior to the 2012 season.
Guthrie has been with Kansas City since late 2012, going 33-26. This is not the first time Guthrie has faced the O’s since playing for them as he had started a game for Kansas City in Baltimore last season.
Another familiar face is James Shields who will start Game One in Baltimore on Friday night. Shields pitched in the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays for seven seasons (2006-2012) and the O’s have faced him this season. The Orioles have also seen potential Game Two starter, Yordano Ventura, and veteran lefty, Jason Vargas, before.
The Royals are built on speed:
The Orioles finished first in the majors in home runs hit while the Royals finished close to last. On the flip side, Kansas City lead the MLB in stolen bases while the Orioles finished close to last. The Orioles should be just fine stopping the running game because they have Caleb Joseph, who had one of the highest base runners caught percentage in the majors, and Nick Hundley behind the plate but Kansas City will not be afraid to test the Orioles anyway.
The First Pitch (Pitch Count):
Even though the Royals have a much more solid bullpen than the Tigers did, being patient and working up the pitch count will be key. Shields is a tough pitcher and they might be more comfortable facing someone out of the bullpen than a starter. During the ALDS, the Orioles struck out many times mostly in part because they chase first pitches. Plate discipline is very important.
This is going to be a good series. I see it coming down to the wire. Everything I noted above is mostly the things the O’s need to focus on to win the American League pennant. All we can do is continue cheering them on, and hoping for the best. The team is built well enough to go to and win the World Series, but first they need to get past the Royals in the ALCS.