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2014 ALCS Preview: O’s Vs Royals

This year's 2014 ALCS matches up two teams that not many people predicted to get to this point, but as arguably the two hottest teams in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals definitely will be a fun and exciting series to watch.

This year’s 2014 ALCS matches up two teams that not many people predicted to get to this point, but as arguably the two hottest teams in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals definitely will be a fun and exciting series to watch.

By Nicholas Delahanty (MLB Reports Writer)  

Follow The MLB Reports On Twitter 

It’s been a while since the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals have found themselves in the American League Championship Series, but the wait for these two fan bases is finally over. 

These two teams will open up a best-of-seven series at Camden Yards on Friday night.

Although it isn’t the usual suspects we see in the series (such as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox of the world), baseball fans should definitely keep an eye on this series, as two of the hottest teams in baseball will face off to determine who represents the American League in the World Series.

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O’s Say “CY-You Later” To Detroit

In 1997, the last time the O’s were in the ALCS, guys like Cal Ripken Jr., Roberto Alomar, and Jimmy Key were on their roster, as the 97′ team ultimately lost to a young and very talented Cleveland Indians team in six games.

Starting on Friday night, the 2014 team will have the opportunity to battle for a spot in the World Series, as they were able to take down the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS. 

Going into the series, not many people felt that the Orioles could pull off a series win. With the likes of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and David Price in the starting rotation, a lot of people assumed that this trio would be too much for the Orioles to handle in the series. 

Well, as they always seem to do, the Orioles proved all their doubters wrong once again, and they also did this in grand fashion.

Winning the series as the “underdog” is one thing, but sweeping the Tigers completely stunned the baseball world. It was an intense series that had its moments, but Baltimore found ways to capitalize in key spots. 

Game one showed the beginning of the complete downfall of the Tigers bullpen, one of the few weakness this Detroit team possessed this season. Max Scherzer held his own, but wasn’t his normal dominant self, allowing five runs in 7.1 IP.

The Tigers bullpen could not find an answer to the Orioles hitters, as the combination of Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria and Phil Coke could not get the job done, allowing six ER in just .2 IP.  Baltimore would go on to win the game 12-3, and that really set the tone for the series. 

Game two looked as if Detroit would be able to tie the series, as a pair of HRs from J.D Martinez and Nick Castellanos forced Buck Showalter to go to his bullpen much earlier then anticipated.

The relief core did a nice job, as Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach and Zach Britton combined to only allow one ER.

However, once again, Brad Ausmus‘ bullpen failed him, as Chamberlain and Soria once again struggled greatly. A four-run eighth inning, capped off by a Delmon Young RBI Double, gave the Orioles a 7-6 lead that wouldn’t let up. The win gave the O’s a 2-0 advantage in the series. 

With their backs completely against the wall in an elimination game, Ausmus turned to David Price, who was acquired by the Tigers at the Trade Deadline to help bolster the pitching rotation.

Price did his job, pitching eight strong innings, but it wasn’t enough to get a win, as a two-run HR by Nelson Cruz served to be the distance. Behind a strong effort from Bud Norris, the Orioles finished off the Tigers with a 2-1 victory, helping them punch their first ticket to the ALCS since 1997.

No Angels in The Outfield, Just Royals

The Kansas City Royals, who haven’t been to the postseason since 1985, had the chance to energize their fan base by finally ending their 29 year postseason drought.

Having beaten the Oakland Athletics in walk-off fashion in the Wild Card playoff game, the Royals couldn’t dwell too long on their outstanding comeback, as they had to shift their focus to the ALDS. 

The Royals had a tough task at hand, as they matched up with the team many people thought would be World Series contenders in the Los Angeles Angels.

Although the ‘Halo’s’ had all of the star power, the Royals, just like the Orioles did in their series, made a bold statement in the series., using their young talent and aggressive style of baseball to help them win the series. 

Game one would head into extras innings, as a HR by Mike Moustakas in the 11th inning would be the difference in this 3 – 2 ballgame.

Both starters (Jason Vargas and Jared Weaver) would not factor into the decision, but both bullpens really did a nice job. Kansas City, who has arguably the best bullpen in baseball, had seven relief pitchers combine for 5 shutout innings, while the Halos’ bullpen allowed just the one run (off the Moustakas HR) in four very good innings. 

Just like game one, game two of the series went into the 11th inning. It was a 1-1 game from the sixth inning on, as an Albert Pujols RBI Single tied the game.

As the pitching continued to dominate (as both Yordano Ventura and Matt Shoemaker each had very good starts for their respective clubs), we would not see any scoring until the top of the 11th, as an Eric Hosmer HR and a Salvador Perez RBI infield single gave the Royals a 4-1 lead that they would not relinquish. 

Throughout the series, a major reason why Kansas City was successful was their ability to steal bases in key spots and also their defensive efforts. Lorenzo Cain really led the way on the defensive end, as the Royals collectively stepped up to play a very good series defensively. 

Game three shifted the action to Kansas City, and the fans were hoping to see the Royals sweep the Angels.

The Royals sent “Big Game” James Shields to the mound, and he once again got the job done, working in and out of trouble through his six innings of work, only allowing two earned runs.

After  a Mike Trout HR to lead off the game, the Royals responded quickly, scoring three runs of their own. Angels starter C.J Wilson was removed from the game in the first inning, as an RBI Double from Alex Gordon and a 2-run HR from Eric Hosmer gave the Royals a quick 3-1 lead. It was a lead that the Royals would not give up, as they added on five more runs to secure a 8-3 victory while also finishing off the three-game sweep of the AL West Champion Angels. 

Sorry Bowling For Soup, Royals fans aren’t preoccupied with 1985 anymore, as finally not only is there playoff baseball in Kansas City, but their beloved Royals are just four wins from a possible World Series appearance. 

 

The Royals and Orioles are currently the hottest two teams in baseball.

The Royals and Orioles are currently the hottest two teams in baseball. Lorenzo Cain and Adam Jones look to make a big impact for their respective club in the ALCS, as both want to play in the World Series for the first time in their careers.

Keys to the Series

When it comes to the postseason, it seems that the talk revolves around pitching and defense. Those two factors will be huge in this series, as both teams have a lot of pitching depth to go along with their above average defense.  

The starting rotations might not have the star-powered names that the Tigers rotation had, but these two teams have gotten a lot of quality outings from their starters as of late, which is a major reason why these two teams are matching up in the ALCS. 

The bullpens will play a huge role in this series as well.

As stated before, Kansas City might have the best overall bullpen in the league, but no disrespect to the Orioles, who have a very good bullpen of their own. In close game situations, I’m interested to see how these relievers handle the pressure, as the winner of this series will ultimately get the better production of their bullpen. 

Regarding the offense of both teams, the Orioles and Royals are complete opposites of each other, as we will see a match up of power against speed.

The Orioles showed all season long that they could hit the long ball, as their 211 HRs led all of baseball, while the Royals gave team nightmares on the base paths, as they led all of baseball with 153 SB during the 2014 campaign. 

When looking at statistics, you can always find one or two guys that have success against a current club in their careers. 

For the Orioles, Nick Markakis (.288 AVG, 7 HRs and 42 RBIs in 67 career games vs. the Royals) and J.J. Hardy (.301 AVG, 7 HRs and 21 RBIs in 47 career games vs. the Royals) have been the trend setters for the O’s.

Markakis is a key in this series, as he needs to have good at bats in the lead-off spot, as he needs to continue his patient approach to work his way on base to set the table for the guys behind him.

Hardy has had his struggles in 2014, but if the Orioles could get something from him in the bottom half of the order, it will only help lengthen the lineup. 

Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have had a lot of success against the Orioles in their careers. Butler has been a nightmare for Orioles’ pitching, as he holds a .313 AVG with 10 HRs and RBI in 54 career games against them.

Although average wise he isn’t up there with his teammate Butler, Gordon has beaten up on Orioles pitching as well, as he has a career .294 AVG with 13 HRs and 35 RBIs in 51 games.

There are numerous guys in the Royals lineup that can do damage, so it will be interesting to see if they can capitalize against the Orioles pitching, which has been throwing the ball well as of late. 

 Who Wins The Series?

This will be a series that will be very tough to predict, as both teams are very good ball clubs. If I was a betting man (which I’m not), I would say this series goes at least six games, as I don’t think either team will easily cruise through this series like they did in the ALDS.

For all my fellow baseball fans: please watch this series, it will be worth your while. I’m tired of hearing the people who are “tired of seeing the same teams every year,” well now is a chance for you to put your money where your mouth is.

Two teams who were on very long postseason droughts are meeting in the ALCS to battle for a chance to play in the World Series, and I’m sure they will put on a great show. 

And yes, I am giving Baltimore the slight edge in this series, as I feel that they are playing the best baseball of anyone right now.

This Baltimore team still has a lot to prove, as there are still people out there that don’t believe in them, but Buck Showalter, in my opinion, is due for a chance at a World Series ring, and this is the year he will get the opportunity. 

Either way this series goes, I wouldn’t be surprised by the outcome, as these are two very good teams that are both deserving to represent the American League in the Fall Classic. 

The Orioles last won the World Series in 1983, and were closest next in the 1997 ALCS, before being ousted by the Indians.

The Orioles last won the World Series in 1983, and were closest next in the 1997 ALCS, before being ousted by the Indians.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thanks goes out to our Guest Writer Nicholas Delahanty for preparing today’s featured article.  Nicholas is a current student at Felician College, studying Broadcast Journalism with a minor in English.

He served as the Broadcast and Media Relations Intern for the New Jersey Jackals in 2013, and also hosts a radio show on WRFC Felician College Radio Station called ‘Around the Bases.’

Nicholas recently started working as a broadcaster for Felician College Basketball games, and is a student-writer for the college’s monthly magazine.

He volunteers as a baseball and basketball coach in Garfield, New Jersey, and also volunteers as the announcer for the town’s Junior Boilermaker Football program.

You can Follow Nicholas on Twitter 

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About nickdelahanty

Nick is a recent graduate of Felician College in Rutherford NJ, and already has a lot of experience in the Communications field. He spent the 2013 season as the New Jersey Jackals Broadcast and Media Relations Intern, and was promoted to Assistant Media Director in 2014. Before writing for Baseball Essential, Nick served as a Team Correspondent Writer for MLB Reports, and continues to write for them as a Featured Writer. You can follow Nick on Twitter @Nick_Delahanty

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