By: Sam Kluender
It has all come down to this. The representatives for the National League and the American League in the Fall Classic are the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. In what has been a very suspenseful and more so surprising postseason the two teams that have made it to the World Series matchup probably in the least likely scenario. That is what makes baseball so great. The 2014 postseason has been very entertaining and the ratings have shown that. Almost every game this postseason has been close and tension filled. There has been a void, however, that baseball fans haven’t experienced in a while and that is no close series. While the games have been great, there have been no game 6 or 7’s and have only been one game 5. Could this be the series that changes that?
Someone could say this series is sort of a David vs Goliath story. It definitely seems like it in certain aspects. The Giants have won two World Series in the past 4 years and have been a perennial power house. While the Giants actually had a slightly worse record than the Royals in 2014, many experts and fans thought the Giants were the better team and would fare better in the playoffs. The Royals haven’t followed through with that storyline. The team that was considered an underdog has shown just how good they really are. They’ve played so good that they haven’t lost a game yet this postseason and have joined only the 1976 Reds and 2007 Rockies as the only teams to begin a post season winning seven straight games. If they continue the streak, they have a chance to become the only team to win a World Series and not lose a game in the postseason. Here are the pitching matchups as scheduled thus far:
Game 1: Madison Bumgarner(2.98 ERA) vs James Shields(3.32 ERA)
Game 2: Jake Peavy(3.73 ERA) vs Yordano Ventura(3.20 ERA)
Game 3: Tim Hudson(3.57 ERA) vs Jason Vargas(3.71 ERA)
Game 4: Ryan Vogelsong(4.00 ERA) vs Jeremy Guthrie(4.13 ERA)
The Royals will have home field advantage for the World Series thanks to the American League winning the All Star Game this year. As always, game 1 will be very important and will put the winner if very good position. What to watch in game 1 is how James Shields will bounce back. The ace of the Royals has struggled this postseason giving up 10 runs in 3 games. It was announced earlier than Shields had passed a kidney stone during the ALCS. It may have been the reason for his struggles but he claims it had no effect on his pitching. While Shields have struggled, the rest of their starters have been really good and is largely the reason why they are in this position. The Giants starters have also been equally as good apart from Ryan Vogelsong. Jake Peavy, who has had a reputation of struggling in the playoffs has pitched phenomenally with a 1.86 ERA. One player to watch is pitcher Danny Duffy. The 25 year old was the Royals best pitcher in the regular season but has since been placed in the bullpen. If an injury occurs or the Royals are despite, Duffy could be a huge weapon.
The Giants bats have definitely been in a slump in the playoffs, but have come up with timely hits. As a team the Giants have only hit .244 and a .313 OBP. Their home run numbers are also low with only 5 home runs. The pitching will only get tougher facing the Kansas City Royals so something will have to change. The Giants do have different makers like MVP candidate Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and others. If one or more of those players can get hot, it will pay huge dividends. The Royals have been better on the offensive side hitting just under .260. Add to that the 13 steals the team has and they are in really good shape. Eric Hosmer has played like a hall of famer thus far batting over .440 and a 1.314 OPS.
Given the long rest from the ALCS and NLCS to game 1 of the World Series, both bullpens should be fresh and ready to go. Don’t be surprised to see either team using their top relievers in more unconventional spots if the game is tied or they are losing. With the long rest and day off on Thursday, anyone but the long relievers should be able to go every game if needed. The Royals scary 7/8/9 bullpen arms have continued their great play from the regular season to the playoffs. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland have combined for a 1.05 ERA. 7th inning man Kelvin Herrera has a 1.08 ERA, Wade Davis with a 0.96 ERA, and their All Star closer Greg Holland with a 1.13 ERA and 6 saves. The Giants back end has also been phenomenal with Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla have only given up 1 earned run combined. For both teams it seems like one the game goes to the bullpen it’s over.
In the end, someone will be crowned the winner. Either the Giants will continue their string of postseason success and will win their 3rd World Series in the past 5 years. The Royals could end their World Series drought of almost 30 years and stun the baseball world. The great defense of the Royals outfield will be a huge plus this series, especially when they head over to AT&T Park. Everything I’ve seen from the Royals this postseason has shown me that they are a really good team and can win a WS.
Prediction: Royals in 6