Matchup: Kansas City Royals vs Toronto Blue Jays
Preliminary Series Schedule:
Game 1: Friday Jays @ Royals 8:07 PM Fox
Game 2: Saturday Jays @ Royals 4:07 PM Fox Sports One (FS1)
Game 3: Monday Royals @ Jays 8:07 PM FS1
Game 4: Tuesday Royals @ Jays Time TBD FS1
Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday Royals @ Jays Time TBD FS1
Game 6 (if necessary): Friday Jays @ Royals Time TBD FS1
Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday Jays @ Royals Time TBD FS1
Labeled by many the “powerful vs the powerhouse”, this ALCS shapes up to be a classic battle between the American League’s best. Kansas City and Toronto finished first and second respectively in the American League standings, and it seems like for most of the second half of the season they have been on a collision course to meet in this series. Toronto’s triumph over Texas secured their first appearance in the League Championship Series (LCS) since 1993. Kansas City, on the other hand, is starting to get used to playing in the LCS, having swept the Orioles in this same spot last year to advance to the World Series. It took both the Royals and Jays five games to dispatch of their first round opponents and both teams struggled mightily at certain points in the series’. However, the LCS will represent not only a clean slate for both Toronto and Kansas City but also a chance to play in the fall classic. With the drama set to begin tonight from Kauffman Stadium, find out who will win this clash of the titans and move one step closer to becoming the champions of baseball.
Toronto’s Roadmap: How the Blue Jays Win the American League Championship Series
Do the little things:
Toronto’s in-your-face bravado coupled with its scary, powerful lineup makes them the “sexy” pick against almost any team. While the majestic home runs and obscene bat flips are fun to watch, Toronto will need to play much better against Kansas City than they did against Texas if they want any shot of advancing. Let’s not forget the fact that Texas botched and mishandled four very makeable plays in the fatal seventh inning of game five, one of which shortstop Elvis Andrus said he makes “100 out of 100 times”. Because the defending American League Champion Royals seldom make these mistakes, Toronto must focus on doing the little things if it wants to advance. I do not see Toronto just muscling its way past Kansas City with long balls from Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, etc. If they do not take to heart the “pitching and defense wins championships” portion of the age-old saying “Offense wins games, defense and pitching wins championships”, the Blue Jays will be sent packing.
Get David Price Going:
If I could choose one word to describe David Price’s return to the spotlight of the postseason it would be disappointing. Price went 1-1 in the ALDS with an inordinately high 7.20 ERA in two appearances, one as a starter and the other as reliever. For the Jays to beat the Royals, David Price cannot be good, he needs to be special. Despite the Tulo signing, Price is the main reason this Toronto team has a shot to play for the World Series. His dominant pitching solidified a rotation that was at best inconsistent in the first half of the regular season. If Price pitches like the dominant ace we know he can be, Kansas City will not have much of a chance to win both of the games he starts. Toronto will soon realize that the Royals are a much better, more complete team than the Rangers, and I do not see them surviving this series without David Price being the ace that he has been all second half for the Blue Jays.
Don’t Change Who You Are:
Is it over the top? Probably. Is it disrespecting the game? Maybe. Is it what makes this Toronto team tick? Absolutely. Bautista’s epic bat flipping, Encarnacion walking the parrot after home runs, and Tulo and Donaldson winding up before they greet the third base coach after a long ball all make this Toronto team special and unique. It might not be what baseball traditionalists are used to, however, these antics are a huge part of Toronto’s championship formula. Their bravado and confidence was certainly on full display in the seventh inning of game 5 against Texas, in which Jose Bautista’s bat soared into the air after launching a mammoth home run to give his team a 6-3 lead. While analysts like Curt Schilling and Texas players have criticized Bautista for his antics, Toronto and Bautista need to continue to play the game this way. They cannot change who they are. Not Now. Not ever. I personally do not have a major problem with Bautista’s antics in Game 5, because in the heat of a battle, it is very easy to lose control of your emotions. However, even if Kansas City were to retaliate in Game one of this series and throw at Bautista, Toronto can and will not change how they play the game.
Kansas City’s Roadmap: How the Royals Win the American League Championship Series
Use Your Experience:
Unlike the majority of the Blue Jays team, the Royals have been in this position before. While this postseason has already shown that youth can certainly one-up experience, Kansas City might just have the perfect mix of both. Most of their lineup is still very young and just entering the primes of their careers. For players of this age and this caliber to have the experience of playing in not only the American League Championship Series but also the World Series, is downright scary. Kansas City needs to find a way to use their experience to their advantage, because it could be the slight edge the Royals need in a series that is so evenly matched.
Ride Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis:
The most significant advantage Kansas City has over Toronto is the back-end of the bullpen. Although closer Greg Holland has been lost for the season due to injury, Herrera and Davis are still pretty nasty in the eighth and ninth. The two combined to give up only 3 hits in seven innings, while striking out 11 and allowing just one earned run. If Kansas City gets a late lead, it could be lights out for the Blue Jays offense. This Jays’ offense though is not your typical powerful offense, this is one of the best offenses baseball has seen post steroid era. For Kansas City to fully take advantage of the dominance of Herrera and Davis, they need to stretch both of them out, and hopefully get three combined innings out of them in their wins. While pitchers like Ryan Madison are experienced and have pitched well during the season, this Toronto lineup may have a chance to feast off the other members of the Kansas City bullpen, who struggled in their series with the Astros. If Kansas City can get through six or seven innings with a lead, it needs to find a way to win on the backs of their beasts in the bullpen, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.
Get the Ball to Johnny Cueto in Game 7:
While I have certainly had my doubts about Cueto entering the postseason, his performance in a do-or-die game five went a long way to solidifying his stature as a big time ace in baseball. Cueto became the first pitcher since Don Larsen in 1956 to retire 19 straight batters in a postseason game. Larsen’s performance in 1956 resulted in a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Cueto’s performance was not perfect, but it was pretty darn close. Cueto went eight innings, allowing just two hits while striking out eight and walking none in a dominating effort. I would normally not suggest for a team to try to get to a game seven, however, this Blue Jays team is on a mission and is going to be an extremely tough out. Kansas City’s best chance at returning to the fall classic is finding a way to win at least one of the three games in Toronto, getting to a game seven, and handing the ball to Johnny Cueto with a chance to go to the World Series. If Cueto is on the mound in Game 7, the Royals are going back to the Fall Classic.
If the first round of the MLB postseason was any indication, the League Championship Series’ are going to be packed with drama. Despite many people favoring Toronto to beat Kansas City, people forget that the American League crown still belongs to the Royals and they are going to do everything in their power to not relinquish it. Playing three consecutive nights in Toronto is going to be a brutal challenge for this Royals team. With the World Series at stake, the Toronto fans may be even crazier than they were in game five against Texas, if that is even possible. Yet, the one constant for the Royals during this two year run has been perseverance. Down 6-2 with 6 outs to go against Houston was a perfect example of the sheer grit of this Kansas City ball club. This team just does not quit. Losing is not an option. Toronto will give Kansas City by far the toughest challenge any American League team has given them over the past two years. In the end, the grit, toughness, and experience of Kansas City will pull through. In an epic seven game series, I’m rolling with Johnny Cueto in game seven, with the pressure of an entire city that is dying to return to their rightful place in the World Series on his shoulders. Fasten your seat belts ladies and gentlemen, this one will be wild.
The pick: Kansas City in 7