The last time either one of these teams were celebrating an American League pennant win, Madonna and Michael Jackson were in the early stages of their adult careers and Will Smith was taking control of Bel-Air. Needless to say, the upcoming ALCS showdown between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals has been a few years in the making.
For both teams, their path to this series has been exciting and highly unlikely – defeating teams who were heavily favored over them along the way. So what can we expect from the match-up of underdogs that kicks off Friday evening?
On the Mound
Watching these two teams on the mound is a joy, as they are both incredibly talented and very similar. Both teams are capable of running out superb starting pitchers to start the game while shuffling stellar bullpens to finish things off. Very few managers in the league have the type of confidence in their pitching staff as Buck Showalter and Ned Yost have in their respective groups.
For the Royals, the ability to run James Shields out on the mound to set the tone for the series is an advantage that very few teams in league can replicate – including the Orioles. Shields has the ability to shut down opposing lineups every time he steps on the field, and the confidence he exudes carries over to the rest of the team. When Shields is on the mound, the Royals know they are a team to be reckoned with.
Both teams feature rotations that are very stingy when it comes to allowing runs – both in the regular season as well as the postseason. As two offenses that have been stellar in the postseason face off against equally as impressive rotations, something will have to give.
At the Plate
The top two teams in the postseason so far in terms of runs scored? The Royals (24) and Orioles (21), imagine that. Both teams have hit four home runs while the Royals have collected ten more total hits (36).
However, the regular season tells us that the Orioles are the more productive offense with 705 runs (651 for Kansas City). Though it hasn’t quite played out this way in the postseason, the Orioles are much more prone to hitting the long ball than the Royals as well – a league best 211 in the regular season while Kansas City was the only team in the league to hit fewer than 100 (95).
With Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones, the Orioles always have the ability to explode offensively (see game one of their ALDS series).
In the Field
In the postseason, each of these teams has made just one error. However, the regular season was a different story. The Orioles ranked sixth in the league while the Royals ranked 26th in terms of fielding percentage. Kansas City committed 104 errors while Baltimore excelled with just 87.
Considering how evenly matched these two teams are in nearly every category, it seems appropriate that the series could come down to the better fielding team. A category that is often overlooked, the defensive capabilities (as we saw by both teams in the ALDS) of playoff teams can be the difference between winning and losing a series.
This series is shaping up to be one of the most entertaining MLB playoff match-ups in quite some time. With that being said, Buck Showalter and the Orioles are a team that has had their eyes set on this moment for a few years and they are unlikely to let this opportunity to slip away from them
Prediction: Orioles in six.
Cover Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
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