Tag: 2014 MLB Playoffs

Biggest Takeaways from 2014 ALCS, NLCS Action

With both the American League and National League Championship Series matchups wrapping up quickly, the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants both have some downtime now before the World Series gets underway Tuesday night.

The last two teams to sweep their respective LCS were the 2007 Colorado Rockies and 2012 Detroit Tigers, and they were both in turn swept in the World Series, so the Royals will have to find a way to keep momentum on their side and avoid a similar letdown.

Meanwhile, the Giants ending their series in five games means they can reset their starting rotation and have the red-hot Madison Bumgarner lined up to pitch Game 1. After playing second and third fiddle to the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain during the team’s last two World Series runs, he will be asked to shoulder the load atop the rotation this time around.

So while we have some time to reflect, here is a look at five major takeaways from this year’s ALCS and NLCS action.

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Giants Outlast Cardinals in Game 3, Now Regain Advantage in NLCS

Of course a playoff game between the San Francisco Giants, those inexplicable #EvenYear magicians, and St. Louis Cardinals, the late-inning comeback club, would end this way. With a walk-off error on a bunt, that is. Oh, and in extra innings to boot.

The Giants’ postseason fortune in 2014—like that from 2012 and 2010 before it—continued as they won 5-4 in 10 innings to go up two games to one on the Cardinals, who stormed all the way back from a 4-0 first-inning deficit on Tuesday.

The deciding run came when Brandon Crawford, a lefty hitter who had been walked by lefty specialist Randy Choate to lead off the 10th, sprinted home from second base when Choate fielded Gregor Blanco’s sacrifice bunt attempt only to promptly throw it away down the right field line.

It was a so-very-Giants way to win, especially considering San Francisco had managed exactly one hit—by starting pitcher Tim Hudson, no less—after that four-run barrage in the first until Juan Perez’s single in the 10th pushed Crawford to second.

And yet despite the seeming randomness with which this club keeps on winning, the Giants have regained the edge in a dramatic, tightly contested National League Championship Series that has featured a ninth-inning walk-off home run in Game 2 and Game 3’s walk-off E-1. Through three games, the two teams are separated by all of three runs.

“I’m a little delirious,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said in his televised postgame press conference of managing in yet another pressure-packed playoff game. “We don’t do anything easy. We scored four in the first and then nothing after that until the very end. We play a lot of tight games. It’s kind of our way.”

But the Giants don’t only play a lot of close games in October—they tend to win them.

With the next two still in San Francisco, the Giants have a chance to close out the Cardinals at home behind their Game 4 starter, righty Ryan Vogelsong—he of the 1.19 career playoff ERA—and lefty Madison Bumgarner, the last postseason ace still throwing, who looms in the potential clinch-the-series Game 5.

On the other side, the Cardinals are dealing with injuries (or at least injury concerns) to their two most important players, right-hander Adam Wainwright with his balky elbow and catcher Yadier Molina with his cranky left oblique.

“I woke up [Monday] moving a little better,” Molina said, via Lyle Spencer of MLB.com. “I feel good enough to catch.”

And yet, Molina isn’t healthy enough to hit, so he missed Game 3, the first playoff game he hadn’t played in since Game 2 of the World Series all the way back in 2004—a whopping 84 games ago. Sure, he got up to catch relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Seth Maness in the bullpen in the late innings, but that’s not exactly a promising sign.

Wainwright, meanwhile, is lined up to go against Bumgarner in Game 5, but that doesn’t instill much confidence given how he’s thrown this October. In two turns, the normally dependable righty has managed to make it through just nine innings while surrendering eight earned runs on 17 hits. Yikes.

Even the Cardinals’ freakish knack for finding their stroke late in games, particularly from the seventh inning on, might not be enough to overcome that. Heck, the comeback from 4-0 down to tie it at 4-4 on a solo shot by rookie Randal Grichuk in—you guessed it—the seventh wasn’t good enough Tuesday.

As Giants left fielder Travis Ishikawa, whose three-run double was the blow that put the Giants up 4-0 in the first, said, per Chris Haft of MLB.com:

Somebody asked me earlier…if there’s any other way we can score a run other than a non-conventional way, and I said, ‘If there is, we’re going to find a way.’ Just seems like…the resilience of this team. There’s no quit, whether we’re down or whether we’ve got the small lead. We’re going to find a way to get it done.

These two teams rule the NL just about every year, thanks to their uncanny (and somewhat supernatural?) ability to win—and win in dramatic, weird fashion—in October, so it’s fitting that they’re facing off in the NLCS.

But after the drama and weirdness of Game 3 and the questionable status of two key Cardinals going forward, it seems St. Louis’ late-inning comeback powers are being overwhelmed by the Giants’ random every-even-year luck.

You know, if such a thing exists.


Statistics are accurate through Oct. 14 and courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.

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Giants Beat Cardinals in NLCS Game 3 on Walk-Off Bunt

The San Francisco Giants’ luck with wild throws continued in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. 

With two men on and no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, a wild throw to first from St. Louis reliever Randy Choate allowed Brandon Crawford to score the game-winning run, giving San Francisco the 5-4 walk-off victory. The Giants now lead the series 2-1.


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Kansas City Royals Take Game 3, Lead Series 3-0 over Baltimore Orioles

The Kansas City Royals are one game away from the World Series after downing the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

The Orioles jumped on top in the second inning when Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy hit back-to-back doubles, Pearce scoring off of Hardy’s hit. It was the first time this series that the O’s had a lead in a game.

It didn’t last long as the Royals loaded the bases in the fourth. Alex Gordon hit a grounder to second base, scoring Lorenzo Cain on the fielder’s choice. Kansas City would take the lead in the sixth on Billy Butler’s sixth sacrifice fly of the postseason.

Jeremy Guthrie started the game for the Royals, going 5.1 innings and allowing just one run on three hits. It was his first start in the playoffs in his 10-year career. He also got some great defensive help all around the diamond.

Guthrie did well but it was a collective effort from the club’s entire pitching staff. Guthrie, Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland all helped retire the final 16 batters of the contest. Holland recorded his fifth save of the postseason in the process.

In the preview we mentioned that the Boston Red Sox are the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The Orioles must do the same if they are to reach the World Series and two of those wins have to come in Kansas City.

On the other side, the Royals are one game away from their first World Series appearance since 1985.

Game 4 is scheduled for Oct. 15 at 4:07 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on TBS. You can follow along here on the Bleacher Report for live scores and highlights.


All stats courtesy of ESPN.com. 

You can follow Trey on Twitter @treydwarren.

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Why Norichika Aoki Will Lead the Kansas City Royals to Victory in ALCS

Assuming Mother Nature is on her best behavior, the American League Championship Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals will resume Tuesday night in Kansas City.

That means it’s time for the Royals to unleash their secret weapon: right fielder Norichika Aoki

Clutch hitting by Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar gave the Royals an early 2-0 series edge, but Aoki will be the one to take them to the World Series, a place they haven’t been since 1985.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Aoki is of the smaller variety, a 5’9″ slap-hitter with speed for days.

The postseason is a game of inches and every base counts. With 67 steals over the last three seasons, Aoki is always a threat to change the game with his speed.

Even if all Aoki does is distract the pitcher when he’s on first base, he’ll be making a major impact. We saw Orioles closer Zach Britton have a meltdown in Game 2 trying to keep an eye on Terrance Gore at second base. Aoki has that same potential.

Of course, in order to show off those wheels, Aoki must first get on base. That hasn’t been a problem for the 32-year-old.

What he lacks in power, Aoki more than makes up for in consistency. In three seasons in the major leagues, he’s never produced a batting average lower than .285.

Aoki has been especially dangerous in his home park. In 254 at-bats, including the postseason, Aoki is a .323 career hitter at Kauffman Stadium. That bodes well for the Royals, who are hosting the Orioles in Games 3-5 (if necessary).

Aoki has a .343 batting average against Baltimore this year with eight runs scored in 35 at-bats. Only one of those 35 at-bats resulted in a strikeout. 

That figure suggests Aoki is making solid contact each time he comes to the plate. Anything can happen when the ball is in play, and right now, Aoki is doing exactly that. 

What makes Aoki so tough to get out is that he’s essentially matchup-proof. Left-handed hitters tend to struggle against lefty pitching, but that’s never been the case for Aoki. In fact, according to ESPN.com, he hit much better against southpaws (.363 in 124 at-bats) during the regular season than he did versus right-handers (.259 in 367 at-bats).

Orioles relievers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller were dominant during the regular season, combining for a 1.82 ERA across 138.2 innings. However, Aoki’s prowess against lefties neutralizes what would have been a clear advantage for Baltimore.

After hitting leadoff for most of the regular season, Royals manager Ned Yost discovered late in the season that Aoki was a better fit in the No. 2 spot. Moving down in the order has made a world of difference for Aoki, who is hitting .385 in the 2-hole compared to just .270 as a leadoff hitter.

With so many strengths and very few weaknesses, Aoki has the ability to take over this series, and when he does, the Royals will be partying like it’s 1985.

Eric Hosmer paid for the last round of drinks. Now it’s your turn, Nori.

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2014 NLCS Game 3: Giants vs. Cardinals Preview and Prediction

The National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants is tied at one game apiece as we head into the always important Game 3.

On the hill for the Cardinals will be October veteran John Lackey. Opposing him is Tim Hudson, another pitcher with a ton of postseason experience. After Kolten Wong’s late-game heroics in Game 2, we should be in store for another exciting game. 

Bleacher Report National MLB Columnist Scott Miller joins Stephen Nelson to break down the game and predict its winner.

Who will take Game 3? Watch the video and let us know! 

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MLB Playoffs 2014: Day 11 Schedule, Updated ALCS and NLCS Predictions

Those of us who expected to see Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday evening will just have to wait a little longer. Some torrential rains doused Kansas City, forcing a postponement to Tuesday.

Here’s a look at what the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals would have been dealing with otherwise, via Sports Illustrated:

While this proves to be a bit of a setback in the schedules of MLB enthusiasts everywhere, there is still some upside: With the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants already set to take the field on Tuesday for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, we’re in for a compelling postseason doubleheader.

Before we delve into predicting the eventual outcome of each series, let’s first take a look at the updated schedule for Day 11 of the playoffs.


NLCS Prediction

It’s uncanny how the Cardinals and Giants are similar in so many ways. Not only do both of these teams have quite a track record in the postseason, but they’ve been putting up some very similar numbers entering a Game 3 set to break the series stalemate.

On Tuesday, 35-year-old John Lackey and 39-year-old Tim Hudson take the mound for St. Louis and San Francisco, respectively. Through one start each in this year’s playoffs, here’s how the two pitchers have fared:

Perhaps the only difference between these two teams entering Game 3 is the way they’re scoring runs. St. Louis has been relying on the long ball, notching 11 home runs through six games, but San Francisco has been leaning on tough at-bats, accumulating a team .242 batting average.

So, where does all of this lead to a full series prediction?

Well, considering Hudson was virtually flawless in St. Louis earlier this season, going seven strong innings while allowing just three hits and zero runs in an 8-0 win, and the fact that the Giants are headed back to San Francisco with a road win, San Francisco should win Game 3 and gain just enough momentum to edge the Cardinals out in the end.

Prediction: Giants in seven


ALCS Prediction

The Orioles have dug themselves into quite a hole. Losing not one, but two home games against a surging Royals team brings tremendous cause for concern. After all, while Kansas City may not have been a powerhouse during the regular season, it sure is in the playoffs.

Perhaps the most well-rounded postseason team, the Royals combine a decent enough rotation with some very good pitching out of the bullpen, solid baserunning, efficiency at the plate and some newfound slugging power.

Meanwhile, the Orioles starters haven’t been able to last on the mound against the Royals, and the team hasn’t had enough effectiveness from its bullpen to notch a late-game win.

After all, reliever Darren O’Day has taken the loss in both ALCS contests to Royals reliever Wade Davis. There’s no reason to think we shouldn’t expect more of the same in Kansas City.

Here’s a glimpse at a small portion of the work Davis has done against Baltimore thus far, via MLB:

Let’s not take anything away from the Orioles here—they are a very good team. Unfortunately, they just happen to be outmatched in practically every phase of the game and now must attempt to climb out of an 0-2 hole in three road games.

This series will not make it back to Baltimore.

Prediction: Royals in five

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2014: Updated ALCS, NLCS Bracket, Day 11 Predictions

Monday’s only MLB playoff game was postponed due to rain, but that just means Tuesday’s slate will be a packed postseason doubleheader. The American League Championship Series and National League Championship Series will both resume on Tuesday with a duo of pivotal Game 3 affairs.

As was planned all along, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants will continue the NLCS out West in a Tuesday afternoon thriller to decide which team will take a 2-1 advantage. But after a stretch of storms soaked the Midwest on Monday, the ALCS had to wait until Tuesday night, as the Royals aim to go up 3-0 in the series at home.

All four teams are getting deep into their pitching rotations as we head toward Game 3, and a few hot offenses should see more of the same success. Timely offense has been the key to success all postseason long, and Tuesday should be no different.

Here’s a look at the two games on tap for Day 11.

Updated MLB playoff bracket available at MLB.com.


Day 11 Predictions

ALCS Game 3: Orioles at Royals

After a 2-for-2 trip to Camden Yards that continued their perfect postseason record, the Kansas City Royals come home for three straight games only needing to win two for a spot in the World Series.

The Royals will roll out a fresh pitcher for Game 3, with veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie making his first start and appearance of the postseason. The 35-year-old with a 13-11 record also pitched in Baltimore for five seasons before his first of two Royals stints. 

With a 2-1 career record and a 2.67 ERA against his former team, he’ll come into Tuesday’s start focused on nothing other than striking out his former teammates, per Fox Sports Kansas City’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

Yeah, I think the emotion will come, obviously, from the playoff game. I think (my) history (with the O’s) will be put, not even on a back burner, but on some kind of like rotating kitchen device, what do they call it, lazy Susan or something. So this is a playoff game and each one of us is preparing to play a very good team on the other side. 

And whether there’s history or not, I think each player, myself included, has put that on the lazy Susan for the time being.

The Royals might not know what they’re getting from Guthrie on the mound Tuesday, but his head is certainly in the right place. His strong history against the O’s is also a promising sign for Kansas City. 

Meanwhile, the Orioles have a better starter on paper in Wei-Yin Chen, but his postseason debut was one to forget. He was pulled after 3.2 innings, giving up five earned runs and two homers against the Tigers in a game the Orioles were lucky enough to still win.

Kansas City was the worst home run-hitting team in the majors this season but has eight through just six playoff games. The Orioles offense—while effective—hasn’t been able to keep up so far this series, and that shouldn’t change as the Royals grind out another close one at home.

Prediction: Royals win, 6-4


NLCS Game 3: Cardinals at Giants

Two teams awfully accustomed to the NLCS spotlight in recent years will battle on Tuesday, both knowing the implications Game 3 has—especially in a knotted-up series.

And if it wasn’t for the bat of Kolten Wong in Game 2, that wouldn’t even be the case, as his late home run allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to notch a win before heading to AT&T Park for three games against the San Francisco Giants.

This is guaranteed to be a memorable series given the recent history of both clubs, and it has already shattered network records, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch:

Despite playing far from their best baseball through these two games, the Cardinals used their typical recipe of late heroics to even the score. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Giants can win this series solely by taking care of business at home.

The Giants lineup went cold at times in the National League Division Series, but it has come to life in the NLCS by drubbing Adam Wainwright in Game 1. Despite losing Game 2 late, the Giants scored runs in four of their last five innings.

John Lackey, the Cardinals’ starting pitcher for Game 3, raved about the Giants’ bats, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:

They have got a really good lineup. It’s a deep lineup, and especially when you’ve got (Travis) Ishikawa hitting eighth. … It’s more of an American League-style lineup, which I’m pretty well accustomed to. So I’m going to have to make pitches all the way throughout the lineup. They are good.

Tim Hudson will start for San Francisco in Game 3, and after getting an early lead from his offense, he will be able to navigate the Giants to a crucial win.

Prediction: Giants 3, Cardinals 2

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St. Louis Cardinals vs. SF Giants: Keys for Each Team to Win NLCS Game 3

The St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants will face off in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday with the series tied at two games apiece.

The matchup between the two Senior Circuit heavyweights figured to be an even one, and it’s lived up to that billing through two games so far.

The Giants took Game 1 on the back of a dominating performance from Madison Bumgarner, shutting out the Cardinals in St. Louis. Then, the Cardinals enjoyed a walk-off solo homer from Kolten Wong in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 2 to even the series.

For Game 3, the Cardinals will throw Boston Red Sox import John Lackey against the Giants’ Tim Hudson in San Francisco in a battle of two veteran right-handed starters. It’s another fairly even matchup in what promises to be a very competitive series.

With the Cardinals and Giants so evenly matched, what does each team have to do to gain an edge in Game 3? Let’s take a look at a few keys for success for both teams, as well as what the NLCS has taught us about the Cards and Giants so far.

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10 Biggest Mid-MLB Postseason Questions That Need Answering

As the postseason progresses, teams, players and results provide more and more answers along the way. Some are expected, but others? Not so much.

That doesn’t mean, there still aren’t plenty of questions to consider regarding how everything is shaping up and, ultimately, how it all will play out.

To determine that, or at least try, here’s a batch of questions that need answering over the rest of October—and even a shot at some of the answers.

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