San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Not at all surprising that the Giants and Cardinals are back in the Championship Series. They’ve had a lot of success in recent years and that starts at the top with their personnel decisions and who they’ve had in the dugout. The Giants know that Bruce Bochy is the right guy for them and has done a marvelous job with a multiple array of personalities. Buster Posey and Brandon Belt have been stellar at the plate and they’ve been joined by Joe Panik whose 73 game regular season sample size was enough to get him the starting nod at second base. Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong were fantastic in their starts in the NLDS against Washington. Even with Madison Bumgarner having a loss against the Nationals he should be a force going forward as the staff ace. The Giants are still underdogs and they will use it wisely.
No one has expected the Cardinals to remain competitive with the loss of Albert Pujols and manager Tony LaRussa. Mike Matheny has done a great job keeping the Cardinals in contention and they’ve found a worthy replacement in Matt Adams for Pujols at first base. What has helped the Cardinals stay competitive is their pitching. At the top is Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Newcomer John Lackey has been in the Postseason many times and was unstoppable for the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. If Matt Carpenter didn’t almost single handedly destroy the Dodgers pitching, St. Louis probably wouldn’t be here. His .375 3 HR 7 RBI stat line is pretty amazing. How the Cardinals bullpen fairs will determine their success in this series. They were lucky against the Dodgers, but the Giants are a different story.
Players to watch: C Buster Posey Giants and C Yadier Molina Cardinals
Cardinals win in 6 games
Kansas City Royals vs. Baltimore Orioles
I didn’t have these two teams coming close the ALCS at the beginning of the season. I’m certainly not disappointed that they are both here. I love a good story, especially one that involves the sport of baseball. The last time the Royals were in the Postseason was in 1985. That was also the last and only time they won the World Series. They defeated the Angels with great defense, timely hitting and their speed on the base paths. Their pitching wasn’t too shabby either. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas got hot at the right time and they need to keep it going. It will be tougher to slug it out with the Orioles and that’s where the Royals pitching needs to take over. Their bullpen is better, especially at the back end with Greg Holland closing games. James Shields and Yordano Ventura will need to set the tone early and get them back to Kansas City with at least one win.
Baltimore hasn’t been in the ALCS since 1997 and haven’t been to a World Series since 1983. Like the Royals, Baltimore’s fan base has been waiting a long time for this moment. The batting order is stacked. Nick Markakis sets the tone at the top by getting on base. With the absence of Chris Davis due to suspension it hasn’t affected the protection for Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones. Cruz destroyed the Tigers for a .500 batting average with 2 HR and 5 RBI in the three game sweep. J.J. Hardy signed a three year extension before the start of the ALCS and he should continue his impressive Postseason. Chris Tillman has a lot on his plate starting Game 1 and he’ll need to pitch a great game. The Orioles bullpen isn’t going to mash, but they are effective. Just ask the Tigers.
Players to watch: 1B Eric Hosmer and OF/DH Nelson Cruz
Orioles in 6 games