The Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals both played in an emotional Game 5 victory over a team from the state of Texas, and now they square off against each other in the American League Championship Series. The ALCS will provide baseball fans with what should be a classic matchup between two teams that are looking for a more recent World Series title than 1985 (Royals) and 1993 (Blue Jays). The ALCS also pits two teams against one another that have recently created some bad blood for one another.
Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.13) takes the mound for the Jays in Game 1 and he will start opposite of the Royals’ Edinson Volquez (13-9, 3.55). Volquez was involved in the fracas during these two teams August series, so tonight’s game could provide some fireworks and a couple more bench-clearing instances for the Jays and Royals. As far as matchups go for hitters against both of these pitchers, the slight edge goes to the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will send David Price (18-5, 2.45) to the hill as he tries to earn his first-ever postseason win as a starting pitcher. Starting for the Royals is Yordano Ventura (13-8, 4.08), and the slight edge goes to the Royals’ hitters in Game 2. Price is 0-6 with a 5.23 ERA as a starter in the postseason, but he had a 2.93 ERA against the Royals in two regular season starts. Both of these pitchers can mix it up with a multitude of pitches, and this might be the best pitching matchup of the postseason.
The Royals will start Johnny Cueto (11-13, 3.44) in Game 3 as the ALCS heads north of the border and into the Thunderdome (Rogers Centre). Starting for the host Blue Jays will be the Bionic Man, Marcus Stroman (4-0, 1.67). Stroman tore his ACL in March and went back to Duke to earn his degree while rehabbing, and here he is pitching on the biggest stage — and looking stronger than ever. Cueto has looked inconsistent throughout the season but this is postseason baseball and he will be pitching in front of an emotional Blue Jays’ crowd that wasn’t afraid to show the world what 22 years of pent-up frustration looks like in Game 5 against the Rangers.
R.A. Dickey (11-11, 3.91) and his knuckleball will be starting against the Royals in Game 4, but KC has yet to name their starter for this game. Dickey, much like Cueto, pitched up-and-down all year, but the Blue Jays crowd is sure to help him be ready for this game. The problem is what knuckleball pitchers do in the postseason — Tim Wakefield for example — and the elevated ERA that often comes with these types of pitchers in October.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays will be opening the ALCS at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City and they held a road record of 40-41 during the regular season. In the ALDS, they were able to win to road games to take the series to a deciding Game 5, and their offense woke up in a major way in Arlington against the Rangers.
Toronto’s biggest x-factors will be Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. If Tulo can find his swing in the ALCS, the Royals could be in trouble, but he is only hitting .095 AVG with one home run, four runs batted in and seven strikeouts. The only thing keeping him in the starting lineup is his defense at this point. Price needs to work on cutting down on pitching behind in the count because it has elevated his pitch counts in his last couple of appearances and he is a pitcher that relies on keeping batters guessing. Price should have a better outing against the Royals in Game 2 but only if he can pitch in the strike zone early and often.
Kansas City Royals
While the Blue Jays held the season series edge at 4-3, the Royals have an excellent home record at 51-30, and KC overcame Toronto for the ability to host a series such as this one. The series provided late-season fireworks on both sides but the x-factors for the Royals are going to be two players that also joined their current team at the trade deadline.
Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist might hold the keys to a series win for the Royals, and a second consecutive trip to the World Series. Cueto’s record is anything but dazzling and he has struggled with his new team — posting a record of 4-7 with KC. He is 1-0 in the postseason this year though and the Royals won both of his games started so far in October. If he can dig deep and continue to pitch well in October, the Royals could be on their way to hosting Game 1 of the WS. Zobrist is a player that can play anywhere and he hasn’t hit under .310 in any month since joining Kansas City. He is also hitting .333 this postseason which has helped the Royals quite a bit. With the power in the rest of the lineup, the only thing that Zobrist needs to do is get on base. If he hits some home runs that is an added bonus for KC.
What to Expect
This series is one that baseball fans from all over are looking forward to — and they should be. With the amount of power in both lineups, quality pitchers and some dazzling defense in the field, this series will provide a bit of everything. Add recent bad blood to the mix — although both teams say that is in the past — and we could call this series the Battle of the Bat Flip.
If you want to read a position-by-position breakdown head over to MLB.com.