The Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals will face off in the American League Championship Series.
The O’s and Royals swept their respective ALDS against the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels.
The Orioles beat the Tigers 2-1 in Detroit. I missed a good part of the game, but arrived at a critical juncture in the sixth inning. Tigers catcher Alex Avila was taken out of the game after sustaining a concussion after being hit on a swing by Steve Pearce. Avila has had several concussions and cannot help but wonder if he might have to retire prematurely. No sooner than backup catcher Bryan Holaday came into the game, Adam Jones singled and Nelson Cruz hit an opposite field HR off David Price to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. The Tigers rallied in the ninth with Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez (no relation) hitting back to back doubles off Orioles closer Zac Britton. But after striking out Holaday, O’s manager Buck Showalter had Britton intentionally walk Nick Castellanos. The move paid off as pinch hitter Hernan Perez hit into a game ending double play.
But honestly the Tigers were out of it when their bullpen blew a three run lead in the eighth inning of Game 2 when ex-Tiger Delmon Young hit a bases clearing double. The Tigers started three Cy Young winners – Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Price and were no match for the Orioles.
The Orioles will have a far greater test of the Kansas City Royals. After winning the AL Wild Card against the A’s and the first two games of the ALDS in extra innings, the Royals only needed nine innings to beat the Angels, 8-3. The Angels actually took a 1-0 lead in the first on a solo HR by Mike Trout. It would prove to be Trout’s only hit of the ALDS. The Royals scored three runs in the bottom of the first on a three-run double. This prompted Angels manager Mike Scioscia to remove starter C.J. Wilson after only 2/3 of an inning. I thought he was pushing the panic button.
Eric Hosmer made it a 5-1 game in the third with his second HR of the ALDS. Moments later, Billy Butler stole second base. Butler had exactly five stolen bases in his eight year career prior to tonight.
Royals starter James Shield did labor for six innings. He would give up a solo HR to Albert Pujols in the fourth and had only one three up, three down inning. But Shields was helped by his defense especially on back to back diving catches by Royals centerfielder Lorenzo Cain. The bullpen combination of Kelvin Herrera-Wade Davis and Greg Holland held the Angels to one run on two hits over three innings. Holland would strike out Trout to end the proceedings and pandemonium ensued in KC. The Angels may have had the best record in MLB this season. But that means nothing in October. And now we have an Orioles-Royals ALCS.
The ALCS will begin in Baltimore on Friday. Both teams might be rusty after four days off, but neither team will have an advantage over the other. It’s been a long time coming for both teams. This marks the O’s first ALCS appearance since 1997 and the Royals first ALCS since 1985. Who will triumph? The power of the Orioles or the speed of the Royals? I see a seven game ALCS with the Royals prevailing.