Royals vs. Orioles ALCS Preview

On Friday night, dreams will be one step closer to reality for the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles. Two proud franchises who have fallen on hard times have reversed their fortunes to square off against each other in the American League Championship Series. While both the Royals and Orioles were sexy picks to make the postseason, nobody predicted they would meet each other in the ALCS.

The Kansas City Royals will try to extend their seven game postseason winning streak that dates back to 1985, as they tangle with the Baltimore Orioles for the American League pennant.

Perhaps what makes this series most intriguing is the talent found roaming around in the outfield for both ball clubs.

The Royals have arguably the best defensive outfield in all of baseball. Alex Gordon has a cannon in left field. Lorenzo Cain, Nori Aoki and Jarrod Dyson are all among the fastest players in the majors.

The Orioles may possess the best offensive outfield in all of baseball. Nelson Cruz led the league with 40 home runs. Nick Markakis finds ways to reach base with a career OBP of .358. Adam Jones is as close to a five tool player as you will see in today's game.

Kansas City's offense has shown signs that they may be able to hang with the Birds' sluggers. The Royals have received clutch hitting in the postseason from their corner infielders. The two players (Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas) with perhaps the highest expectations over the past few years both came through with game winning homeruns in back-to-back ALDS games.

The Royals hope they can keep Hos and Moose hot and continue to run wild on the base paths in order to keep up with an O's offense that led the majors in home runs in the regular season.

Although the Orioles own the advantage on the offensive end, the Royals have the upper hand in starting pitching.

Kansas City's rotation features three veterans in James Shields, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. Both Shields and Vargas have already proved this postseason that they can pitch well in big games. The young gun, Yordano Ventura, also impressed by throwing seven innings of one run ball against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS.

Since every game is so important, Ned Yost will most likely keep Danny Duffy out of the starting rotation. The Royals can't afford to have an injury-prone Duffy start the game and come out early. It would be a wasted start and Kansas City would be forced to use up their relievers.

The Orioles are lacking a true ace, but Chris Tillman has been their most consistent. Tillman went through a stretch this season where the Orioles won 10 of his starts in a row.

Baltimore's probable game two starter Wei-Yin Chen only walked 35 batters over 185.2 regular season innings. This may be an advantage to a free-swinging Royals team that has the fewest walks in baseball this season. The Boys in Blue won't have to worry about swinging at too many bad pitches as Chen will consistently pound the strike zone.

Anyone who follows baseball closely knows that there isn't a better seventh, eighth and ninth inning combo better than Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. This back end bullpen trio has been so dominant that some have nicknamed them the "Three-Headed Monster."

With a combined regular season earned run average of 1.27 over 204.1 innings, this trio will certainly make life rough on Baltimore hitters.

In addition to the "Monster," the Royals bullpen features two other sensational arms in Danny Duffy and Brandon Finnegan.

Although Duffy doesn't look like he will get into the rotation, he may prove to be pivotal as a reliever. There is no question that Duffy was the Royals best starter this season when healthy. If any Kansas City starters get into trouble or a game goes to extra innings, Duffy will be the man they rely heavily on in those situations.

Finnegan also proved he can come in and get big outs in his outings against Oakland and Los Angeles. Finnegan may have little Major League experience, but by pitching in the College World Series earlier this year, he's used to pitching in pressure situations.

The Orioles counter with a very solid bullpen that tied the Royals for most saves in the regular season among AL teams. The O's pen come fully-loaded with closer Zach Britton, Andrew Miller and a side-winding Darren O'Day. All of which had a regular season sub 2.00 ERA.

Extra-inning games between these two clubs would be intriguing to watch. Both teams possess the bullpens that could make for some historically long games. Baltimore probably owns the slight advantage due to having the better offense.

Both teams will likely have an advantage playing in their home parks. A spacious Kauffman Stadium will favor Kansas City's outstanding pitching and decrease Baltimore's chances of going yard. A hitter-friendly Camden Yards will favor a Baltimore offense that crushes the baseball.

An ALCS trophy isn't the only hardware on the line for these two clubs. Ned Yost and Buck Showalter have been a huge part of the AL Manager of the Year discussion and the team that wins this series will likely earn their skipper the award.

Although both managers have done tremendous jobs with their respective teams, the advantage in managing has to go to Showalter. He seems to always pull the right strings when making critical in-game pitching decisions. Yost on the other hand has made a number of controversial decisions this season. Bunting his hottest hitter with runners on and no outs; pitching some of his worst relievers in big spots are two blunders that come to mind.

With not much separation between the defense and bullpen of each club, the reliable starting pitchers of Kansas City versus the scorching bats of Baltimore will be key. You can expect a tightly contested series that will go a full seven games with the Royals advancing to the World Series for the first time in 29 years.

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