Should the weather comply (and most meteorological types seem to think that it will NOT), the Royals will begin play Friday night against the dreaded Baltimore Orioles to determine who will represent the American League in the World Series, and who will begin their exotic vacations a little later than originally anticipated. (Or earlier than anticipated for the optimists in the crowd.)
We all know that Kansas City hasn’t been to the World Series since they beat the Cardinals in 1985. For their part, Baltimore hasn’t been in some time, either. Their last appearance—dubbed the I-95 Series—saw them beat the Philadelphia Phillies in 1983. It was their third WS trophy.
(But before we shed a tear for the Orangebirds, let us not pretend that they’ve been bereft of opportunity; this is their fourth postseason jaunt since the ’83 title. The Royals, of course, are making their first return to October baseball since they won it all.)
Anyway, this is one of those “something’s got to give” things, I guess.
With that in mind, here’s what Kansas City can do to crush the dreams of all those soft-shell crab enthusiasts. (That’s what they’re into, right? I gotta be honest, Maryland is an absolute mystery to me. And I’m fine with that.)
Limit Damage Inflicted by Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones. With Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Manny Machado all blessedly and officially on the shelf (Davis—who is good because of drugs—is eligible for reinstatement in time for Game 6, but all signs indicate he will NOT be activated), the Orioles’ lineup isn’t super intimidating. I mean, DAVID FUCKING LOUGH is their left fielder for crying out loud. But Cruz (who is also good because of drugs) and Jones are formidable foes worthy of an intentional walk each plate appearance. I know it seems simple, but hey, it worked against Mike Trout and Albert Pujols like I said it would, dinnit? (Okay, or they just had a terrible series. Whatever.)
Take your chances against Nick Markakis who is having an uncharacteristically quiet year, or J.J. Hardy because it’s just J.J. Hardy, you guys.
Beat Up the Starters, if at All Possible. The Orioles’ rotation is a lot like the Angels’ rotation in that it is good, but not great. Their bullpen from top to bottom is stronger, though, and it seems unlikely that you’d see a lot of crazy comebacks late in the game. Former Detroit Tigers’ first round pick Andrew Miller is a Wade Davisian style setup man, and closer Zach Britton is as solid as Sears. That said, while they’re still not Davis and Greg Holland, they’re nothing to sneeze at, either.
Take Advantage of Miscues. The Orioles are a really good team defensively. Like, as good as the Royals, by most metrics. They don’t make errors at all. So in the unlikely event that they do, Ned Yost needs to throw Terrence Gore out there and have him steal everything that isn’t nailed down.
Dance With What Brung You. I said it in the ALDS preview, and I’ll say it again: the Royals need to play their game, period. Just because Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have hit a couple of (very important and awesome) bombs, it doesn’t suddenly mean that this is a power-hitting team. They’ve lived and died by their antiquated, small-ball, early-1900s-National League-style of play. To abandon this tactic now would be a critical error. Because I don’t think Yost is capable of over thinking anything, however, I don’t see this being a problem.
In the end, these are two very evenly matched teams. Baltimore has the more potent offense, but I think pitching and defense—you know, the things that win championships or whatever—err slightly in Kansas City’s favor.
The Royals take this thing in six games, winning the series 4-2.
Royals @ Orioles, Friday 7PM CT (Unless it’s rained out. Which it could be.)