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5 Storylines to Watch in the AL and NL Championship Series

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The marketing for MLB likes to say that, “You can’t script October.” So true. Every postseason the games write the stories themselves, furnishing our sports memories with moments that last forever. Here are several story lines to keep an eye on during the AL and NL Championship Series.


5 Storylines to Watch in AL and NL Championship Series

Speed vs. Power

What a contrast of styles the ALCS is going to deliever. The Royals, the Wild Card, cinderella story from the AL Central, made it to the League Championship Series with their game-changing speed, timely hitting, and brilliant defense. The Orioles won the disastrous American League East by 12 games with brut strength.

Both teams pitching is rather similar, with the only true ace belonging to the Royals and “Big Game” James Shields, even though he really hasn't lived up to that moniker. It sounds good though. Pitching aside, the Royals and O’s couldn't be more polar opposites. The Royals led baseball in stolen bases (153) and were last in baseball in home runs (95). In the other dugout, the Orioles led baseball in dingers (211) and were last in stolen bases (44). Pretty remarkable that two teams with such a contrast in styles were able to make it this far into the Postseason. Should make for a fantastic ALCS.

Same Teams, Different Year

If the Giants and Cardinals weren't wearing different uniforms, they might be mistaken for the same ball club. Both teams have an ace backed by reliable starting pitching, and good, not outstanding bullpens. In fact, both clubs have the exact same team ERA (3.50), almost identical BAA (SF-2.41, STL-2.42), and number of strikeouts (SF-1211, STL-1222).

Both clubs thrive on timely hitting, not gaudy power numbers. In the NLDS, it was Brandon Belt that hit the midnight, 18th inning homer in Game 3 that gave the Giants a two-games-to-one lead over the baseball’s best regular season team, the Washington Nationals. It was a mix of Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Adams that sent the favored Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw back to Chavez Ravine in dramatic and unlikely fashion.


Since, 2000, the Cardinals have made it to the NLCS nine different times (Ed Rooney voice: “Niiiiiiiine times), including the last four in a row, and the World Series four times, winning it all twice. Not to be outdone, the Giants have been to three of the last five NLCS, winning the World Series two times as well.

Lefty vs. Lefty

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The Cardinals were able to do the impossible in the NLDS against the Dodgers, they beat Clayton Kershaw…twice…in one series. Against the game’s best hurler and probable 2014 NL Cy Young Award and MVP winner, St. Louis was able to put an 8-spot in game one thanks to lefty Matt Carpenter’s homer and double that sparked an unbelievable comeback. In game four, Kershaw was throwing a one-hit shutout in the sixth when Matt Adams took him deep to give the Cards a 3-2 lead they would hold on to and take the series. To my knowledge, the Cardinals do not play with four-leaf clovers in the cleats.

How long can their luck against power lefties last? The Cards are all but guaranteed to see the Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner twice, if not three times in this series. Bumgarner’s numbers against left-handed batters are pretty dominating. This season lefties are hitting just .224/.246/.293 with just 1 HR, 5 walks, and a SO/BB ratio of 11.60. Bumgarner pitched against the Cards just twice this season, but only allowed 5 runs on 9 hits, 16 strikeouts, 4 walks, and a slash line of .205/.271/.341.

Kolten Wong, Matt Adams, and Matt Carpenter, the heroes of the NLDS for the Cards, will have their hands full with MadBum in game one Saturday night against the Giants.

Kings of Kansas City

Much has been made of the Kansas City Royals and their fantastic October run that has led up to this ALCS against the Orioles. The world knows that they haven’t made a Postseason, let alone a World Series appearance since their Fall Classic title in 1985. But the relationship between this club and their city is certainly special. Sick and tired of being bottom dwellers in the AL Central and playing little brother to the St. Louis Cardinals and the self-appointed “best fans in baseball,” Kansas City Royals fans have been out in full force for their ball club. The atmosphere they have created for their team at Kauffman Stadium has been nothing short of magnificent. The brooms for a sweep against the Angels and the saturated sea of Royal blue has been a sight long over-due in the city of Kansas City. And nothing may have been more evident of the relationship between the city and the ball club when star first baseman, Eric Hosmer, invited the fans to a local watering hole via Twitter after the series clincher against the  Angels and offered to fund a happy hour to anyone that joined. A $15,000 tab and some spilled beer later, a bond that was forged over years of lackluster baseball and recent resurgence was solidified.

Orioles Sluggers

In the three games sweep against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, the Orioles put up 21 runs, 10 of which came against the likes of the last three AL Cy Young Award winners (Scherzer, Verlander, and David Price). Let there be no doubt, the Royals bullpen (ERA 3.30) is much, much better than that of the Tigers in which the Orioles scored 11 runs in their series sweep.

But the most fascinating thing about the Orioles slugging is the fact that they lead baseball in homers (211) by far, and they did it without last season’s home run leader, a lackluster and suspended Chris Davis, and injured stars Manny Machado and Matt Wieters. Davis did hit 26 long balls this season, but thats less than half of the 53 that he hit last year.

Not only was Davis a shell of what he had been, but he got himself suspended for a bizarre use of Adderall. Machado’s “Young and the Restless” 2014 season was wild and over-dramatic. In-between stints on the disabled list and run-ins with Oakland A’s, Machado only played half the season and put up less than stellar numbers. Matt Wieters was having the best season of his young career when he was sidelined for a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery, which seems unheard of for a catcher. But even without three of their best players, the O’s were able to slug their way to an AL East title thanks in large part to season home run leader Nelson Cruz (40), Adam Jones (29), and Steve Pearce (21).

Can the O’s continue to defy baseball logic and march toward their first Fall Classic appearance since 1983 with their love of the long ball? Or will the Royals arsenal of power arms stifle their bats and continue their Cinderella run to the World Series?

By Jake Rose