PATH TO HOME PLATE – MLB 2014
By Anthony McClean, Editor – in- Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM): For the fourth time in NLCS history, the Giants and Cardinals are meeting for a shot to represent the National League in the Fall Classic. Or as that great baseball sage Lawrence Peter Berra (I believe his mama may have called him Yogi) once said, “It’s deja vu all over again!!”
When you consider the adversity that both teams overcame to get to this point, you have even more respect for the franchises. San Francisco lost their ace Matt Cain in early August. So they go out and get Jay Peavy at the trade deadline. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina goes down to a thumb injury for St. Louis in July. No problem — they go and get veteran backstop A.J. Pierzynski to soften the blow.
While “Moneyball” and all of their sabermetric disciples are the common rage in baseball, the Giants and Cardinals don’t try to come off as the smartest guys in the room. They build from within and aren’t afraid to go out and spend a few bucks to bring in a veteran to help them get back into the postseason.
Today, we’ll take a look at this matchup of mirror images and how this series should play itself out.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Game One probable starters: SF — Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA) vs. STL — Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA)
How did they get here: San Francisco shutout Pittsburgh (8-0) in the NL Wild Card game and eliminated Washington (3-1) in the NLDS. St. Louis won the Central and eliminated Los Angeles (3-1) in the NLDS.
Season series: Giants won 4-3.
What to look for: We all know the usual suspects in a series like this. We’re accustomed to seeing guys like Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval or Matt Holliday and the aforementioned Wainwright rise up in the postseason. But because of the star power of this matchup, don’t be surprised if an unlikely hero emerges.
Did you know: The Giants (2010, 2012) and Cardinals (2011) have won three of the last four World Series crowns; this will be St. Louis’ fourth straight trip to the NLCS.
Outlook: Unlike the ALCS, these two teams have similar pedigrees on all sides of the equations. Both managers have established themselves in the postseason as well. That being said, I have to go with the team that seems to have the best momentum heading into the series. Bruce Bochy’s squad has won 11 of their last 12 postseason contests. As much as I give St. Louis its due, right now I think San Francisco has a little more mojo on their side. My Pick – Giants in seven.
It’s the one of the oldest axioms in baseball — pitching and defense. Any team that masters those two key ingredients can win games, division titles, playoff games, and eventually — a World Series championship.
Throw in a strong bullpen and you have the essence of this year’s American League Championship Series with the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles.
It’s been a long drink of water since either franchise has been to the World Series. Under first-year manager Joe Altobelli in 1983, the Orioles defeated the Phillies for their last world championship. Just two years later, Kansas City overcame 3-1 deficits in the ALCS and World Series for their lone World Series crown.
Today, we’ll take a look at this upcoming series which has the makings of being a classic. The chess game between managers Buck Showalter and Ned Yost will be an extra added dimension for this series. They’ve pushed the right buttons all season. Now they’re looking to push a few more to get a berth into the World Series.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS vs. BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Game One probable starters: KC — James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA) vs. BLT — Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA).
How they got here: Kansas City won the AL Wild Card game (9-8 in 12 innings) over Oakland and swept Los Angeles (3-0) in the ALDS. Baltimore won the AL East and swept Detroit (3-0) in the ALDS.
Season series: Royals won 4-3.
What to watch for: Kansas City speed versus Baltimore power will be the early theme. The game within the game will be cat and mouse battle between Oriole catchers Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph against the Royals’ running game. The loss of Baltimore’s All-Star backstop Matt Wieters could come back to haunt the O’s.
Did you know: The Orioles hit the most home runs in the AL (211) in the regular season, and the Royals hit the fewest (95). The Royals stole the most bases in the AL (153), and the Orioles stole the fewest (44).
Outlook: Unlike many series’, both teams are coming into this battle by playing their best ball of the season. The O’s comeback in Game 2 of the ALDS and K.C.’s timely hitting during this postseason have been a testament to that. I think both pitching staffs (starters and bullpen) will cancel each other out. To me, the difference will be K.C.’s commitment to speed. It won’t be easy, but I like the Royals. K.C. in seven.