2014 ALCS preview: Paul Hoynes picks Kansas City to beat Baltimore in six … – The Plain Dealer

October 10, 2014 Posted by admin

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The long wait to return to the World Series will finally end for the Royals or Orioles as soon as they settle the American League Championship Series, which begins Friday night at Camden Yards.

The last time the Orioles played in the World Series, 1983 to be exact, Members Only jackets were all the rage among the country’s young males.

Kansas City has not been to the World Series since 1985, when gas was $1.05 a gallon. In fact, manager Ned Yost’s wild-card Royals are in their first postseason of any kind since their 1985 forefathers beat St. Louis in seven games to win baseball’s championship.

The power-laden Orioles reached the ALCS by winning the AL East by 12 games over the Yankees with a 96-66 record. They swept Detroit in the best-of-five American League Division Series with two of their three wins coming by one run.

In beating the Tigers, the Orioles did the Royals a favor. The Tigers (90-72) clinched the AL Central on the last day of the regular season with the Royals one game back at 89-73. If the Tigers had beaten the Orioles in the ALDS, the Royals chances of playing in the World Series later this month would have taken a hit.

The Tigers went 13-6 against Kansas City during the regular season. The Royals went 4-3 against the Orioles.

Kansas City had to scrap to get to this point in the postseason. They scored twice in the bottom of the 12th inning to beat Oakland, 9-8, in the wild card game. In a three-game sweep of the Angles in the ALDS, they won Games 1 and Games 2 in the 11th inning to give them three straight extra-inning postseason wins.

The Orioles led the big leagues with 211 homers in the regular season. Nelson Cruz led the way with 40 in the regular season and two more in the ALDS. Adam Jones added 29 and first baseman Steve Pearce, designated for assignment during the regular season, hit 21.

The Royals ranked last in the big leagues with 95 homers. In the ALDS, however, Mike Moustakas hit a game-winning homer in the 11th in Game 1 and Eric Hosmer hit a two-run, tie-breaking homer in the 11th in Game 2 on the way to beating the Angels, who led the big leagues with 98 wins.

What the Royals do well is run. They’ve stolen 12 bases in the postseason, including seven in the wild card game.

Defensively, the Orioles finished in a three-way tie for the highest fielding percentage in the AL at .986. Kansas City tied for 10th at .982, but is still considered an excellent defensive club with Gold Glove caliber defenders in shortstop Alcides Escobar, catcher Salvador Perez, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and left fielder Alex Gordon.

Here’s how the two teams matchup position by position:

First base

Royals: Hosmer is an excellent defender, who missed time because of a right hand injury. He hit only nine homers during the regular season, but is hitting .500 (7-for-14) with two homers and five RBI in the postseason.

Orioles: Pearce has filled in well for Chris Davis, who was left off the ALCS roster as he finishes serving a 25-game suspension for amphetamines. Pearce, hitting .300 in the postseason, hit .315 with five homers and 12 RBI in September.

Edge: Royals, Pearce has more power, but Hosmer is swinging a hotter bat.

Second base

Royals: Omar Infante drove in a career-high 66 runs during the regular season. He’s playoff tested and a solid defender. He’s hitting .125 (2-for-16) in the postseason and drove in six runs against the Orioles on April 27.

Orioles: Jonathan Schoop is a rookie with power. He hit .209 during the regular season, but padded that with 16 homers and 45 RBI. He’s hitting .300 (3-for-10) with two RBI in the postseason.

Edge: Royals, Infante is an accomplished veteran.

Shortstop

Royals: Escobar, who played 162 games during the regular season, has pulled the Royals’ defense together over the last few years. Escobar moved into the leadoff spot over the last two weeks of the season and hit .362 (25-for-69) with nine runs and a .397 on base percentage.

Orioles: J.J. Hardy’s power declined this season as he went from 25 homers and 76 RBI in 2013 to nine and 15 this year. He still hit .315 with runners in scoring position and .360 against the Royals. By most defensive metrics, Hardy is considered one of the best shortstops in the AL.

Edge: Orioles in a close call.

Third base

Royals: After a disappointing regular season in which he hit .212, Moustakas is hitting .286 (4-for-14) with two homers and two RBI in the postseason. His glove is suspect.

Orioles: Utility man Ryan Flaherty, with regular Manny Machado out for the season following right knee surgery, started all three ALDS games at third. The left-handed hitter batted .288 with eight RBI in September and is 1-for-6 in the ALDS.

Edge: Even.

Catcher

Royals: Perez is hitting only .153 in the postseason, but the All-Star makes the Royals go on both sides of the ball. He won the wild-card game with a single past third in the 12th and hit .260 with 17 homers and 70 RBI during the regular season.

Orioles: With Matt Wieters out for the season with Tommy John surgery, it will be interesting to see who starts behind the plate for the Orioles. In the ALDS, Nick Hundley started twice and Caleb Joseph once. Joseph threw out over 38 percent of the runners who challenged him during the season. He could slow down the Royals’ running game, but he hit only .207 during the season.

Edge: Royals have a big advantage.

Designated hitter

Royals: Billy Butler, headed into free agency, didn’t have a great walk year. He hit .271 with nine home and 66 RBI. He’s 0-for-9 in the postseason. Butler is still dangerous against lefties, but the Orioles have just one left-handed starter in Wei-Yin Chen.

Orioles: One of the reasons the Orioles are in the postseason is because they took a chance on signing Cruz in February when no one else would. All he did was hit .271 and set career highs in homers and RBI (108). He’s hitting .500 (6-for-12) with two homers and five RBI in the postseason.

Edge: Orioles in a landslide.

Left field

Royals: Gordon might be the best left fielder in baseball and that’s saying something after watching Michael Brantley play this season. His three-run double in the first inning of Game 3 of the ALDS put KC’s sweep in motion. Gordon, with four RBI in four postseason games, hit .345 with two homers and nine RBI against the Orioles during the season.

Orioles: Alejandro De Aza was acquired from the White Sox for the stretch run and he delivered. He hit .293 with three homers and 10 RBI in the 20 games after the deal. In the postseason, he’s hitting .375 with two RBI. De Aza’s defense is suspect.

Edge: Orioles, Gordon’s the better player, but De Aza is trending up, while Gordon is tending down.

Center field

Royals: Cain has put on a defensive clinic in the postseason. He did it most of the regular season as well. During the season, he hit .301, but struck out 108 times in 471 at-bats. In the postseason, he’s hitting .211.

Orioles: Jones hit .287 with 96 RBI during the season while hitting third and fourth. With runners in scoring position, he hit .320 so his .182 average in three postseason games shouldn’t fool anyone.

Edge: Orioles, Jones is the more complete player, but sometimes that doesn’t compute in a best-of-seven series.

Right field:

Royals: Nori Aoki had a great September, hitting .379, 10 RBI and a .926 OPS. He’s slowed considerably in the postseason, hitting .235 (4-for-17), but he’s talented slap hitter with a good throwing arm.

Orioles: Leadoff hitter Nick Markakis hit .271 with 81 runs in 642 at-bats during the season. He faded in September (.234) and is hitting .250 with one homer and three RBI in the postseason.

Edge: Orioles, Markakis is the more dangerous hitter of the two.

Rotation:

Royals vs. Orioles: It will be Kansas City’s James Shields vs. Chris Tillman in Game 1. The rest of the starters have yet to be named, but this will already be Shields third start of the postseason including the wild card game and Game 3 of the ALDS. Lefty Jason Vargas and rookie Yordano Ventura started Games 1 and 2 in the ALDS. Tillman started Game 1 against Detroit followed by Chen and Bud Norris.

It’s believed Ventura will start Game 2 for the Royals on Saturday.

In the regular season, the Royals rotation finished fifth in the AL with a 3.60 ERA. The Orioles were sixth at 3.61. Shields went 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA against the Orioles during the season. Tillman, who will be making his second start of the postseason, threw a five-hit shutout at the Orioles on May 16.

The Royals have more depth with Jeremy Guthrie and Danny Duffy behind Shields, Vargas and Ventura.

Edge: The Royals have more depth with Jeremy Guthrie and Danny Duffy behind Shields, Vargas and Ventura.

Bullpen:

Royals and Orioles: Both teams have great closers in Greg Holland (46 saves regular season, two postseason) and Baltimore’s Zach Britton (37 saves regular season, two postseason). If the Royals get an early lead, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland could bring the ALCS to a quick end. Herrera injured his right forearm in Game 1 of the ALDS, but came back to pitch in Game 3. Andrew Miller, acquired from Boston, has made a big difference in Baltimore’s pen with 34 strikeouts in 20 innings.

Edge: Even.

Bench

Royals and Orioles: Kansas City can bring speed off the bench in the form of Jarrod Dyson (37 steals in 42 attempts) and Terrance Gore, who the Royals believe is the fastest man in baseball. Gore stole 47 bases in 54 attempts in the minors this year and is 7-for-7 with the Royals, including two steals in the ALDS. Baltimore counters with the bat of Delmon Young, 10-for-20 as a pinch-hitter this season. The former ALCS MVP helped dispatch the Tigers in the ALDS with a three-run double in Game 2.

Edge: Orioles.

Managers

Royals vs. Orioles: Kansas City’s Ned Yost took a lot of heat this year for some of his moves, but he delivered his team to the promised land for the first time in 29 years. Buck Showalter did a great job with the Orioles despite losing Machado, Davis and Wieters. He’s smart, likes to work ahead of the curve and can annoy the heck out of his opponents.

Edge: Showalter.

Prediction: I’m picking the Royals in six games. I think their starting pitcher will neutralize the Orioles’ offensive advantage.

Article source: http://www.cleveland.com/tribe/index.ssf/2014/10/2014_alcs_preview_paul_hoynes.html

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