Chris Moore| BKD TV Insiders
Five years ago, if someone would have told me I would ever see the Orioles and the Royals playing each other in the ALCS I would have laughed in their face. Five years ago the Orioles and Royals both finished last in their division. Five years later, on a Friday night in October, the Orioles will host the Royals in Game 1 of the ALCS with Chris Tillman and James Shields on the mound. It’s a matchup of speed vs. power. The Orioles hit the ball out of the ballpark and the Royals steal bases like kleptomaniacs.
Baltimore has without question the best lineup left in the postseason. You could argue they had the best lineup before the playoffs even started. But they certainly have it now. With Nick Markakis leading off, to Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz in the power spots. Followed by everyday role players like J.J. Hardy and Steve Pearce, the Orioles lineup top to bottom is difficult to deal with. They also play in one of the most hitter friendly ball parks in all of baseball in Camden Yards. I have been a skeptic of the starting pitching and continue to be one. Wei-Yen Chen was less than impressive in his lone start in the ALDS. Chris Tillman and Bud Norris pitched well in their starts and really carried the Orioles to wins in their respective starts. Chris Tillman has sold me that he is a frontline starter. Also, in Chris Tillman’s case, of the last 13 runners who have tried to run on him, only 2 made it successfully. That will certainly be a key in this series for Baltimore. The other key is the bullpen. It has been excellent this year and is being operated by one of the most intelligent men in baseball, Buck Showalter. One thing you often hear about bullpen pitchers is holding runners is not a strength of theirs. Well for Baltimore, it’s going to have to be because as we have all learned, the Royals wreak havoc on the basepaths.
As for Kansas City, they appear to be a team of destiny. Down 4 runs to one of the best postseason pitchers in our lifetime, they came back and defeated the Oakland A’s. Then went up against the team with best record in baseball and swept Los Angeles. The thing about Kansas City is once they get momentum in a ball game, it’s hard to stop them. They are aggressive on the basepaths and on defense. They make it hard for teams to get back in games because of the strength of the bullpen and their outstanding defense. While I give Kansas City a slight nod in starting pitching, I have concerns about them too. In Camden Yards, if a starter doesn’t have his best stuff, the ball will fly all over the park. Especially against this Baltimore lineup. The Royals starters will need to be sharp and keep the ball down and keep it in the ballpark. If they can do that for 6 innings and get the ball to the bullpen, they have a great shot. The Royals bullpen has the best 7,8,9 pitchers in baseball with the Orioles second. Which means whatever the score is after 6, is likely what it will end up being after 9. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland have been absolutely lights out this year and will likely continue to be in this series.
As I said, whatever the score is after 6 innings, will likely be the score after 9 innings. However, I think the Orioles have better depth in the bullpen which gives them the nod in extra inning games. The Orioles led baseball in homeruns. The Royals finished last in baseball in homeruns. The Royals led baseball in stolen bases. The Orioles finished last in baseball in stolen bases. If that’s not speed vs. power, I don’t know what it is. The Royals look to be baseball’s darlings and a team destined to go all the way. However, something in my gut tells me this Orioles lineup is too tough to tame for the Kansas City Royals. I’ll take the O’s in 6.
Byron K. Dixon-Orioles