Tag Archives: Alex Gordon

Royals series is an early must-win for the Phillies

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The Royals and their fans got to celebrate a series opening victory

The Philadelphia Phillies (21-16) continue their series at Kauffman Stadium with the host Kansas City Royals (14-25) on Saturday night. The Phillies need to come away with a victory in order to have a chance to win this series against the team with the worst record in the American League.

The Royals offense has actually been very comparable to the Phillies to this point, at least statistically. They are averaging 4.74 runs per game to the Phillies average of 5.11 runs. Over two more games played, the Royals have slugged two more homers than the Phillies. Kansas City’s .752 collective OPS is just ahead of the .751 mark of the Phillies.
On the mound is where you find the primary difference between the first-place Phillies and last-place Royals. With a staff ERA at the 3.96 mark the Phillies pitchers rank 11th in all of baseball. The Royals staff has a collective 4.99 ERA, just 26th among the 30 MLB clubs.
That pitching difference didn’t show up in Friday night’s series opener. Royals starter Homer Bailey shut the Phillies down on four hits and one earned run over five solid innings. The Kansas City bullpen then followed with four no-hit frames, striking out eight Phillies batters.

SATURDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES LINEUP

  1. Andrew McCutchen LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto DH
  6. Odubel Herrera CF
  7. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  8. Maikel Franco 3B
  9. Andrew Knapp C

ROYALS LINEUP

  1. Whit Merrifield 2B
  2. Adalberto Mondesi SS
  3. Alex Gordon LF
  4. Hunter Dozier 3B
  5. Jorge Soler RF
  6. Ryan O’Hearn 1B
  7. Kelvin Gutierrez DH
  8. Chris Owings CF
  9. Martin Maldonado C

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

  • Zach Eflin: 4-3, 3.00 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, 41 hits allowed over 42 IP across seven starts with a 31/7 K:BB
  • Eflin has given the Phillies a Quality Start in four of his last six outings, and was brilliant in winning his most recent two over the Marlins and Nationals, allowing just 11 hits over 16 innings.
  • Brad Keller: 2-3, 3.99 ERA, 1.394 WHIP, 38 hits allowed over 47.1 IP across eight starts with a 36/28 K:BB
  • Keller began the season with four consecutive Quality Starts but has none over his last four outings. Walks have been his bugagoo, and he handed out five free passes in his most recent outing this past Sunday at Detroit.
  • Keller has pitched well at Kauffman Stadium this year, with his .182 BAA at home as the eighth-lowest mark in the AL.
  • Tonight’s starting assignments will mark the first career appearance for both pitchers against their opponents.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • J.T. Realmuto will serve as the DH for the Phillies on Saturday night. He saw action in five previous career games asa DH while with the Miami Marlins in which he hit just .200 with no extra-base hits or RBIs over 22 plate appearances.
  • Since the start of 2018, Maikel Franco is one of three hitters in MLB with more than 25 homers and fewer than 80 strikouts.
  • Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins are the only two players in baseball this season with 25 RBIs and 25 walks.
  • Hoskins leads the NL and is third in MLB with 63 homers since his 8/10/17 big-league debut, and is the only hitter in baseball with more than 60 homers and 145 walks in that period.
  • Since the start of 2017, Odubel Herrera’s 108 extra-base hits as a center fielder rank 4th in the majors.
  • Veteran left fielder Alex Gordon, who homered twice last night, is second in the American League with 64 RBIs since last August 1. Now 35-years-old in his 13th MLB season, Gordon was an AL All-Star each year 2013-15.
  • Gordon’s 95 career outfield assists are tied for most in MLB since 2010. His four this season are tied for sixth in all of baseball. Gordon is a six-time AL Gold Glover in left field, including in each of the last two seasons.
  • Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier entered this series leading the AL in slugging percentage (.661) and OPS (1.088) and ranked second in on-base percentage (.427) and sixth in batting average (.331) in the junior circuit. He went 0-4 with a walk last night.
  • Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi are tied for the MLB lead with six triples, making them the first teammates with at least six triples through 38 team games since 1981. In comparison, the Phillies entire team has a total of five triples combined.
  • Merrifield, who was thrown out trying to steal second base last night by J.T. Realmuto, has 94 career stolen bases. That is the most in the AL since his May 18, 2016 big-league debut. He led the AL with 34 steals in 2017 and all of MLB with his 45 bases swiped last season.

SATURDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION


Phillies visit Kansas City for just second time since the 1980 World Series

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Phillies visit Kansas City for second time since the 1980 World Series

On the surface, this mid-May series in Kansas City between the Philadelphia Phillies (21-15) and the host Kansas City Royals (13-25) at Kauffman Stadium might not seem very interesting.

However, when you consider the situations of the two combatants and the Phillies upcoming schedule, the importance of winning – better yet, sweeping – this series should become more apparent to all Phillies fans.
First, those situations. You can tell just by looking at the win-loss records of the two squads that they are in far different places this year. The Phillies lead the National League East Division standings by four games, five in the loss columng.
Meanwhile, the Royals are in the basement of the AL Central Division. They already sit 11.5 games in back of the first-place Minnesota Twins, 13 out in that loss column. In fact, they are buried in the cellar at the current time, a full five back in the loss column from the fourth place team in their division.
These are the teams that the Phillies must beat up on if they are going to really pull away in their own divisional race. Also, after this weekend the club returns home for the next nine games. That would usually be a good thing, and it probably is in the scheme of things. But they return home to face some tough competition at the start of a scheduling crucible.
Of the Phillies next 23 games, 20 are against teams who currently have a winning record. And the three against a losing team come next weekend at home against the Colorado Rockies, who are just below the .500 mark and are always dangerous.
The Phillies will return home to a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers (23-16) followed by three with the Rockies. Then they go on the road to the Windy City and four with the red-hot Chicago Cubs (22-13) and on to Milwaukee for three more with the Brew Crew. A quick stop home for a three-game series with the Saint Louis Cardinals (22-16) is then followed by a trip out west to face the Los Angeles Dodgers (25-15) and San Diego Padres (21-17).
That, my friends, is what is called a “test” in the sports world. It is the kind of stretch that tells you whether or not you are a legitimate contending team or not. It is a gauntlet that can either make a team, bringing it closer together, elevating it to new heights, or expose it as either a flawed club or an outright fraud.
And so, this weekend in Kansas City is important to the Phillies. They are a better team than the Royals. But that doesn’t mean that Kansas City doesn’t possess talented players entirely capable of coming up with a strong weekend and sending the Phillies home lamenting a missed opportunity . Gabe Kapler needs to have his club ready to play, and they need to go hard after these three games.

FRIDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES LINEUP

  1. Andrew McCutchen LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper DH
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Odubel Herrera CF
  7. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  8. Maikel Franco 3B
  9. Nick Williams RF

ROYALS LINEUP

  1. Whit Merrifield 2B
  2. Adalberto Mondesi SS
  3. Alex Gordon LF
  4. Hunter Dozier 3B
  5. Jorge Soler RF
  6. Ryan O’Hearn 1B
  7. Kelvin Gutierrez DH
  8. Martin Maldonado C
  9. Billy Hamilton CF

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

  • Jake Arrieta: 4-2, 3.40 ERA, 1.244 WHIP, 40 hits allowed over 45 IP across seven starts with a 37/16 K:BB
  • Six of Arrieta’s seven outings can be characterized as strong, with only his April 27 start at home against the Miami Marlins as a poor outing. That would be his lone non-Quality Start (at least 6 IP, no more than 3 ER allowed) to this point.
  • Arrieta has four career starts vs the Royals: 2-0, 3.70 ERA, 22 hits over 24.1 IP with a 24/10 K:BB. However, three of the four came in 2010-11, and he has not faced them at all since the 2015 season. He made a start at Kauffman Stadium as a rookie with the Baltimore Orioles in 2010, and then made another start there in the 2011 season for Baltimore.
  • Homer Bailey: 3-3, 5.25 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 34 hits allowed over 36 IP across seven starts with a 34/13 K:BB
  • Bailey has made seven starts, and in five of those he hasn’t pitched badly. However, in his two poor starts, he was miserable. Back on April 8 in his second start, Bailey allowed seven earned runs over five innings, mostly a product of three home runs. Then on April 23 he was bounced after just one inning by the Tampa Bay Rays after allowing four earned runs on three hits and four walks. In those other five starts he allowed just 23 hits over 30 innings with a 27/7 K:BB. Opponents have managed just a .219 BAA over his last five starts. In other words, unless the awful version happens to show tonight, Bailey can be expected to toss a solid game.
  • Bailey has made 11 career starts against the Phillies: 1-4, 3.74 ERA, 57 hits allowed over 65 innings with a 54/14 K:BB. His last came early last season when he went six innings for the Cincinnati Reds in a 6-1 loss at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies scored five times off the Reds bullpen after Bailey left that game.
  • Tommy John surgery in 2015 followed by surgery to remove bone spurs in his pitching elbow in early 2017 caused Bailey to miss most of the 2015-17 seasons. He made just 26 starts over those three years, 18 of those after returning in 2017.
  • Back on December 21, Bailey was included in a big trade between the Reds and the LA Dodgers, who subsequently released him the following day. He signed as a free agent with the Royals on February 9.
  • Bailey and Arrieta are two of five active MLB pitchers to have tossed multiple no-hitters in their careers. Bailey’s came all the way back in 2012 and 2013.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • This is the first meeting between these two teams since the Phillies took two of three games at Citizens Bank Park in the 2016 season. It will be just the second regular season trip to Kansas City for the Phillies, with the last coming way back in 2007. Of course, the Phillies famously captured their first-ever World Series championship by defeating the Royals in six games back in 1980. The Royals won their first just five years later. Both franchise’ now have two titles.
  • Tonight marks just the 13th regular season meeting between the Phillies and Royals, tied with the Los Angeles Angels as the fewest games which the Phillies have played against another MLB opponent.
  • This will be the Royals first Interleague series of the season. They went 6-14 last year in such games, and are 190-213 since Interleague play began back in 1997. They will face each of the Phillies divisional rivals later in the season. The Phillies set a franchise record with a dozen Interleague wins last season, and have a .600 winning percentage against AL clubs since the start of 2018, fourth best in the NL.
  • Andrew McCutchen has faced Bailey 51 times, more than any other Phillies player, and is hitting .314 off him. No current players in the Phillies lineup have homered off Homer.
  • Billy Hamilton, perhaps the flat-out fastest player in Major League Baseball, has faced Arrieta 18 times, most on the Royals. He has just a .167 average vs the Phillies right-hander. Alex Gordon is the lone Royals active hitter to take Arrieta deep.
  • Harper will serve as the Designated Hitter in Friday night’s opening game. Harper was the DH just once last season with Washington, going 0-5 with two strikeouts in a game at Toronto on June 17.
  • Today is the 29th birthday of perennial AL All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. An All-Star in each of the last six seasons and winner of the AL Gold Glove at catcher in five of those, Perez is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is expected back at full strength for the 2020 campaign.
  • Over their last 13 starts, the Phillies rotation has combined to post a 2.42 ERA in leading the Phillies to a 9-4 record in that span, with their collective ERA as the 2nd-lowest among all MLB staffs during the stretch.
  • Keys for the Phillies? They are 16-4 when scoring first, 18-4 when scoring four or more runs, 18-6 when blasting at least one homer, 12-1 when they out-hit the opposition, 19-1 when leading after six innings, 20-8 when their starting pitcher goes at least five innings. On the flip-side, they are 0-11 when trailing after six innings, 1-4 when tied after eight innings, and are 0-2 in walkoff decisions. In other words, they haven’t done well when trailing late to this point.
  • A celebration of life for Phillies chairman and minority owner David P. Montgomery, who passed away earlier this week, will be held at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 3:05 p.m. This is a scheduled off-day for the Phillies coming off a west coast trip. The service will be open to the public with gates opening at 2 pm. Parking in the CBP lots will be free. In lieu of flowers, the Montgomery family kindly requests that contributions be made to: Phillies Charities, Inc., Citizens Bank Park, One Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, PA 19148.

FRIDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION


Whit Merrifield breaks out as Royals return to contention

Whit Merrifield emerges as productive second baseman
When the Kansas City Royals opened play for the 2017 MLB season, very few prognosticators picked them to be a contender.
The Royals captured back-to-back American League pennants in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. And in 2015, they won the second-ever World Series crown in franchise history. That isn’t all that long ago.
But fortunes of big league mini-dynasties can turn around in a hurry these days. The Royals slipped to a .500 finish a year ago. With the Cleveland Indians on the rise in the AL Central Division, and with an aging homegrown core, the Royals looked like yesterday’s news.
Flash forward a few months, and here we are in the Dog Days of summer. Heading into play on Tuesday, August 8, Kansas City is tied for one of the two American League Wildcard playoff berths. The club also sits just three games behind the Indians in the division.
As the season was set to open back in late March, Royals skipper Ned Yostannounced that then 21-year old Raul Mondesi Jr had won an open battle for the team’s second base position.
The losers in that battle, Whit MerrifieldChristian Colon, and Cheslor Cuthbert, were left to battle for bench roles with the club in the final days of spring training.

PLAYER PERFORMANCES RESULT IN CHANGED PLANS

Merrifield had an option remaining, and so ended up opening the year back with Omaha in the Pacific Coast League. He quickly showed that he could rake AAA pitching. Over 37 plate appearances, he hit for an outstanding .412/.432/.794 slash line with three home runs.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, to say that Mondesi was over-matched would be an understatement. He slashed just .103/.167/.179 over his first 14 games and 46 plate appearances. Mondesi did steal five bases, but he simply wasn’t reaching often enough to make a real difference in that regard.
Into the breach stepped Merrifield. Given an opportunity to start with the big club, he took it and ran. The 28-year old is now hitting .294 over 401 plate appearances. He has 13 homers, 49 RBI, 50 runs scored, and stolen 18 bases. In short, Merrifield has been an unexpected gem for the Royals.
A little over a week after Merrifield took over the job at the Keystone position, Kansas City began to win. Since May 1, the Royals have a 50-38 record.
Rustin Todd of the Kansas City Star noted in a piece earlier this month that the Royals’ vice president for communications, Mike Swanson, was reporting that Merrifield was in rare company.
Per Swanson, Merrifield was just the seventh player in big league history to produce 175 hits, 80 runs, 40 doubles, and 20 stolen bases over the first 162 games of his career.
“With his versatility, there’s a lot of things he can do,” Yost was quoted by Todd. “He can steal a base, he can bunt, he can swing the bat, he hits the ball to all fields. He gives you a good at-bat.”

IMPROVED APPROACH LEADS TO BREAKOUT

Merrifield was Kansas City’s selection in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of South Carolina. As he rose through the Royals farm system, a strong 2014 season split between AA and AAA was the only sign that he might be more than a big league bench player. At least so far, he has turned out to  be so much more.
In a recent piece for Beyond the Box Score, Anthony Rescan broke Merrifield’s success down in a more analytic fashion.
“This year, Merrifield has displayed a solid amount of offensive upside. His aggregate offensive statistics have spiked up significantly. He currently sits at a 111 wRC+, .339 wOBA, and a .289 TAv. All of this is being done at a .309 BABIP as well.” ~ Anthony Rescan
Merrifield’s consistent production has been a key to the turn-around of the Royals lineup. Not once this season has he gone more than two games without producing a hit.
Since the MLB All-Star break, Merrifield has only upped his game, hitting for a .327/.366/.577 slash line and six home runs in that span.
The Royals have surprised many by fighting back into contention here in the 2017 season. However, the club has now dropped six of their last eight games. And they just lost their all-star catcher and team leader Salvador Perez until September.
To stay in the race, Kansas City is going to need their remaining veteran core of Eric HosmerMike MoustakasLorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon to step up in the lineup. Continued production from Merrifield is also sure to go a long way towards the Royals returning to postseason baseball.

Can the Royals Bounce Back and Contend in 2017?

The Kansas City Royals and their fans suffered through nine straight losing campaigns and 17 of 18 dating back to the 1994 strike season.
Then in the early part of this decade, the club began to build up one of the top farm systems in the game.
It all came together for them at the big league level with back to back AL pennants in 2014 and 2015, and a World Series championship in 2015.
But this year the Royals slid back to the .500 mark, finishing in third place in the American League Central Division. They were 13.5 games behind the division-winning Cleveland Indians, and eight games behind the AL Wildcard pace.
It was a frustrating summer for the defending champs. But that eight game difference between themselves and the playoff teams is not insurmountable.
The Royals plan to return to that postseason contention in 2017, but is that a reasonable goal? With a few tweaks, some breaks, and not unreasonable improve performances, the club can indeed reach the postseason once again.

LINEUP LOSSES IN PLAYERS AND PRODUCTION

Kansas City lost a bunch of key players from their lineup in 2016, costing them both firepower and veteran influence.
Ben Zobrist was always likely a one-year rental, and possibly an expensive one considering good-looking pitcher Sean Manaea went to Oakland in that 2015 trade deadline deal.
Since Zobrist was a key player in actually winning a World Series, it will always have been worth the cost. It worked out for him, of course, as Zobrist became the MVP of another World Series winner with the Cubs.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas lost his season in May to a torn ACL. Moustakas is expected to be ready for spring training and the 2017 season when, at 28 years of age, he should be just entering his prime.
Two of the club’s best run producers, first baseman Eric Hosmer and DH Kendrys Morales, slipped this season.
While Hosmer hit seven more homers and knocked in 11 more runs, he also roped nine fewer doubles and scored 18 fewer runs. His average and on-base percentage each fell more than 30 points.
Morales hit eight more homers but knocked in 13 fewer runs, while his average and on-base percentage each dropped precipitously as well. He will turn 34 years old in June, and ended up leaving for the Toronto Blue Jays via free agency earlier this month.

MOUND MINUSES AND INJURIES HURT

On the mound, Edinson Volquez needed to step up this year. Instead, he stepped down. Volquez’ ERA rose nearly two full points, as did his Hits/9 ratio. He is now a free agent.
Yordano Ventura went from an 8.5 to 9.2 H/9 , allowed nine more home runs, and saw his K/9 drop from 8.6 to 7.0.
Wade Davis was dominating in 2015 when he pitching in a staff-high 69 games. He missed half of July and then the entire month of August due to a forearm strain this season.
Greg Holland had been a strong closer in 2015. But he became a free agent after that season, and then missed the entire 2016 season after needing Tommy John surgery. He is back on the free agent market, though a return to Kansas City is almost certainly not going to happen.

HOW ROYALS LINEUP COULD CONTEND IN 2017

With so many losses and question marks, how can Kansas City hope to contend in 2017?
Part of that answer comes from their own homegrown core of players in Hosmer, Moustakas, catcher Salvador Perez, and left fielder Alex Gordon. Every one of those players was down in some way this year. A bounce-back from those four would go a long way towards contention.
Another key player who needs a recovery season is center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He went from nearly winning the AL MVP in 2015 to being just another guy this past season. Cain has much more talent than he flashed in the 2016 season.
From August 9 on, Jarrod Dyson hit .321 with a .372 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases. He can be a lineup catalyst.
25-year old Hunter Dozier re-emerged as a prospect, and then made his big league debut. If he can translate his minor league improvement into big league production, it would add another potent bat to the mix.

ROYALS PITCHING RECOVERIES ARE KEY

On the mound, the Royals 2016 Player of the Year was lefty Danny Duffy. He will be a full-time member of the rotation next season after an outstanding summer split between the rotation and bullpen this year.
Jason Vargas was able to return to the rotation at the very end of the season after missing most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery. He is being counted on as a member of the 2017 rotation.
Duffy, Ventura, Vargas, and steady Ian Kennedy would make up a group that, if healthy, can be a Wildcard-contending rotation. There are a number of fifth starter candidates who could also step forward.
In the bullpen, Davis needs to come back strong. If he can return to closing and get solid support from veteran Joakim Soria and youngsters Kelvin Herrera and Matt Strahm, this can be a strong relief corps.
A few of these players will become free agents after the 2017 season, so if it doesn’t work out over the first few months, the trade deadline probably becomes time for management and ownership to make deals to replenish the farm system and try building once again.
With a smart, inexpensive free agent signing or two and the right answers from the players mentioned here, Kansas City can again contend in 2017. With the wrong moves and the wrong answers, they could find the whole team blown up just two years after winning a World Series.

World Series 2014: These Wildcards Are No Jokers

Greg Holland and the KC bullpen should emerge victorious

A year ago when I made my prediction of the Boston Red Sox defeating the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, it wasn’t a difficult prediction to make.

Despite the fact that the 2013 Series featured the best teams by record in both the NL and AL for the first time in 14 years, I felt that Boston was clearly the better team. This time around, I found it much more difficult.

In 2014, we don’t have the best regular season teams involved in the World Series from either league. Not only that, but we also don’t have a division winner. Both the Kansas City Royals, who finished a game behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, and San Francisco Giants, who finished 6 back of the LA Dodgers in the NL West, were Wildcard teams.

This marks just the 2nd time since the concept was introduced for the 1995 season that two Wildcard teams will faceoff in the World Series. In the only other such meeting, the then-Anaheim Angels defeated the San Francisco Giants in a dramatic 7-game series in 2002.

It’s my call here that these current San Francisco Giants will again fall short in the Fall Classic to their AL Wildcard counterparts. I am going to call it Kansas City in 6 games.

The Giants have overcome more than the Royals to get this far. Back at the beginning of October, in the final 2014 MLB Power Ranking, San Fran was ranked just 17th of the 30 teams in baseball. Poor pitching and mediocre defense were the main reasons.

But that was the regular season, and frankly, that matters little right now. The Giants are a battle-tested group that has a number of key players still around who won the World Series in both 2010 and 2012. In the increased pressure of the postseason, winning experience can make a difference.

The case for the Giants begins with their bats. Buster Posey at catcher is one of the best and most valuable players in the game today. He is joined by 3rd baseman Pablo ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Sandoval and right fielder Hunter Pence in a dynamic, clutch middle-of-the-order.

Posey, Pence, and Panda pace the Giants offense

While those three are the engine that drives the Giants offense, the club must get production from supporting players if they want to win this series. In Mike Morse, they will have a true DH-type option when the series opens in KC. Guys like Gregor Blanco, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, Brandon Hicks, and NLCS walkoff hero Travis Ishikawa are going to have to step up.

On the mound, Madison Bumgarner will start Game 1, and he is a true legit shutdown ace. He has the ability to win at least two games all by himself. Behind him, the Giants must continue to receive fountain-of-youth performances from veterans Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson. Ryan Vogelsong, likely in his last hurrah with the team, will start Game 4.

The Giants bullpen has been coming through in the postseason where it was a bit inconsistent in the regular season. Starters Yusmeiro Petit and Tim Lincecum lengthen that pen now, and the back end will feature the combination of Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jean Machi, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, and J.C. Guiterrez.

Trout’s July All-Star MVP performance gave Royals home field 

Meanwhile, the Royals will have home field advantage thanks to Mike Trout. Back in July, Trout was the MVP of the All-Star Game, leading the American League to a 5-3 victory and giving it’s representative the home field. So baseball’s best player has had an effect on the World Series without even playing in it.

They Royals have hitting, but let’s face it, talk about their dominance begins with their pitching, defense, and speed. Kansas City finished at the very top of the final MLB Power Ranking thanks to the game’s #5 pitching staff, and with the top defense in all of baseball by a wide margin. That defense has been electric so far in the postseason.

On the pitching front, the bullpen back-end of closer Greg Holland setup by Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera has been as impenetrable as the “Massey pre-nup”, and been just as intolerably cruel to opposing hitters in the postseason as they were in the regular season. These guys just don’t allow anything, meaning you had best do something with the Royals starting pitchers if you want to beat them.

Those starters are no slouches themselves. It all starts with lead man “Big Game” James Shields. While he has been a bit up and down this postseason, he has the experience and repertoire to match Bumgarner pitch-for-pitch, at least for the 6 innings that he needs to last. Yordano Ventura is a power option in the #2 spot, while both Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie are reliable workmanlike 3-4 starters.

On offense, the Royals have emerging star Lorenzo Cain in the outfield, an All-Star catcher of their own in Salvador Perez, and a quartet of organizational veterans in leftfielder Alex Gordon, DH Billy Butler, 1B Eric Hosmer, and 3B Mike Moustakas. They also have solid contributors in Omar Infante, Nori Aoki and Alcides Escobar. Perez is a star in-the-making, and my choice to emerge as the World Series MVP.

Catcher Salvador Perez: my choice to emerge as MVP

Perhaps the most interesting decision for manager Ned Yost will come right up front. Does he continue to carry the blazing speed of Terrance Gore, perfect for an AL series but limited for 3 possible NL-city games, or does he turn to veteran Raul Ibanez off his bench?

That managerial matchup again appears on paper to be a significant advantage for the Giants, who have the highly respected, 2-time World Series-winning skipper Bruce Bochy calling the shots. Some of Yost’s calls this postseason have been so unorthodox that he has received extreme criticism. Unfortunately for all his critics, his way has resulted in a World Series appearance.

Ned Yost continues to confound his critics, every single one of whom I trust will talk about how Kansas City won despite, not because of, the decisions made by their manager. Their defense remains air-tight, their bullpen remains impenetrable, and their offense and starting pitching remain competitive. The Kansas City Royals give their fans a treat, winning at home in the 6th game.