Obviously very few people expected an Orioles-Royals matchup in the ALCS and the ease with which those two teams dispatched of their ALDS opponents was even more surprising, but here’s an interesting tidbit I just stumbled across:
Baltimore had the American League’s best record in the second half at 44-24 and Kansas City was tied for the league’s second-best record at 41-27.
Every year a lot is made of which players and teams are “hot” heading into the playoffs and most of the time it means nothing, but it’s at least worth noting that the Orioles and Royals were playing really good baseball for months leading up to this surprising ALCS matchup.
Of course, the Angels were too. They were tied with the Royals for the league’s second-best second-half record at 41-27 and it didn’t stop them from getting swept. Detroit was just 37-34 in the second half. And of course the A’s, whom the Royals beat in the Wild Card Game, were 29-38 in the second half.
San Francisco took Game 1 of the NLDS, but not before Washington made things very interesting in part thanks to this massive, 450-foot home run by Bryce Harper off a 97-mph fastball from Hunter Strickland.
Harper doesn’t turn 22 years old for another 13 days.
Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera exited his Game 1 appearance after just one batter while in obvious discomfort and manager Ned Yost just announced that he’s been diagnosed with a “slight” flexor strain.
Yost told reporters “he’s fine” but odds are Herrera won’t be pitching again this season. Flexor strains often lead to a more serious diagnosis and sometimes lead to Tommy John surgery. If nothing else the Royals are not going to want to take any chances with the 24-year-old right-hander.
Herrera, who averaged 98.1 miles per hour with his fastball this season, has a 2.56 ERA in 215 career innings and was part of the Royals’ spectacular late-inning bullpen trio with Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright just plunked Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig in the shoulder and when Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate next he started jawing with catcher Yadier Molina, at which point both benches cleared.
There’s history dating back to last year’s playoffs, when Joe Kelly broke Hanley Ramirez’s ribs with a pitch. This time didn’t seem obviously intentional, but Gonzalez clearly thought there was something going on. Puig, for his part, wasn’t nearly as upset as Gonzalez.
Warnings have been issued, so if Clayton Kershaw hits anyone he’s at risk for ejection.
Oh, and Puig came around to score on a Ramirez single, tying the game at 1-1.
Here are the lineups for Game 2 of the Royals-Angels series in Anaheim:
SS Alcides Escobar
RF Norichika Aoki
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
2B Omar Infante
3B Mike Moustakas
SP Yordano Ventura
Ned Yost sticks with the same lineup he used in Game 1 and in the Wild Card Game. Game 1 hero Mike Moustakas continues to bat ninth and temporary Wild Card Game goat, Yordano Ventura, gets the start after being used (or misused) for a rare relief appearance.
RF Kole Calhoun
CF Mike Trout
1B Albert Pujols
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Erick Aybar
3B David Freese
LF Josh Hamilton
DH C.J. Cron
C Chris Iannetta
SP Matt Shoemaker
Mike Scioscia is sticking with the same lineup as Game 1 despite facing a right-hander instead of a left-hander, which means Chris Iannetta over Hank Conger behind the plate and C.J. Cron at designated hitter. Josh Hamilton, who had a rough Game 1 and tweaked his back crashing into the outfield wall, is back in left field and batting seventh. Starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker will be seeing his first game action since September 15.