Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mighty KC

The 2014 ALCS has been set since Sunday, when two teams that I'm quite certain nobody picked to be here clinched their spots by finishing off shocking sweeps of their supposedly superior opponents.

I'd already gone into the curious case of the intrepid Kansas City Royals, led by their intrepid star Eric Hosmer, who made the brilliant decision of getting on a raging hot streak just as the playoffs were beginning and he'd be playing in games in front of a National TV audience. Hosmer hit another Home Run on Sunday night in Kansas City, as did Mike Moustakas, KC's two Extra-inning heroes. But the key hit came very early for the Royals, courtesy of their George Brett-like Outfielder Alex Gordon, whose 3-run double in the 1st inning cleared the bases, chased Angels starter C.J. Wilson from the game, and gave the Royals a lead they wouldn't relinquish. This was after Mike Trout, whom I last week said was not chosen by the Playoffs to succeed, made me look somewhat foolish by hitting a Home Run in his 1st at bat, but then continued to prove my point because that Home Run ended up being his only hit in the series. In the end, the Royals stepped on the Angels' throats and piled on from there, winning 8-3, and if you like verisimilitude, there was Mike Trout striking out for the final out of the series, as the Royals and their fans basked in a rain-soaked victory.

That was their first Postseason series win in 29 years. That's because it was their first Postseason period in 29 years, we all know that. On the other side, there are the Baltimore Orioles, who haven't had quite as dramatic a postseason drought. They were in the ALDS in 2012, losing to some other AL East team that's no longer relevant, but before that, the last time they were in the Postseason was 1997, when they made it to the ALCS and lost. But when it comes to World Series Championships, the Orioles have neither won one or sniffed one since 1983, back in an era where their roster consisted of Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray and Mike Boddicker. The Orioles still seem to do it with pitching, keeping a potent Tigers lineup mostly quiet through their 3-game ALDS while they put together a pair of 8th inning rallies to win the first two games at home, and rode the power of Nelson Cruz and the pitching of Bud Norris and their bullpen to win Game 3. These Orioles are built in a similar fashion to the Royals: Not a lot of stars, but a collection of players that do everything well and Pitchers who are generally very tough all the time. We all know about Nelson, who's one of those guys that was chosen by the Postseason back when he was with Texas. He's been helped out by Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Jonathan Schoop. Pitching, they did it with Chris Tillman winning the 1st game and Norris in the 3rd game. Wei Yin Chen was hit hard in Game 2, but he's pitched well otherwise. Like KC, who boasts a bullpen full of guys who throw really hard, Baltimore had their ass saved in Game 2 by their bullpen, specifically Kevin Gausman, one of those guys playing the "starter who's coming out of the bullpen in the Playoffs" role.

Bottom line is neither of these teams can be slept on, and they're here because people slept on them. The talk, in general, is which of these teams is the team of Destiny. Either one of them can be viewed as such, because neither of them had the Look of a Champion much throughout the season. True, the Orioles, behind Buck Showalter, led the AL East most of the way and won their division with ease. The Royals had a more treacherous road here, didn't clinch a spot in the Postseason until the final week of the season, and we know what they overcame in the Wildcard game, but sometimes all it takes for a team is just getting there, and then you take it from there. That can often be the best recipe for success in the Postseason. That, and having a guy get chosen by the Postseason to somehow make The Leap and become a guy that catches national attention. Right now, that's been Eric Hosmer. I know that most of what I've read has been touting the Orioles as more of a team of Destiny than the Royals, and that ultimately they'll be the team that's going to emerge out of what looks to be a really fun ALCS, but I'm going the other way and picking the Royals. When you keep coming back in games, when you keep winning games in Extra Innings, and when you have the guy that's become The Guy for your team, that tends to be the recipe for success in a Championship series. So I pick the Royals, 6-7 games and yeah, I know those games are in Baltimore, but that doesn't seem to matter when you have teams like this.

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