The Wild Card games are over and the Divisional Series matchups are set. The Houston Astros will play the Kansas City Royals in the best of five series. Rick Rowand has an ALDS game 2 preview of the matchup.
Houston Astros (86-76) vs. Kansas City Royals (95-67)
Astros won the season series (4-2)
Game 1: Houston won 5-2
Game 2 @ KC 4:45 Friday 10/9 FS1
Game 3 @ Houston 5:10 Sunday 10/11 MLBN
Game 4 (if needed) @ Houston TBD Monday 10/12 TBD
Game 5 (if needed) @ KC TBD Wednesday 10/14 FS1
All times are in Eastern
Game 1 Recap
The Astros took a 2-0 lead, which they never relinquished, in the first off of starter Yordano Ventura, who would go on to give up another run in the 2nd. He was replaced in the third by Chris Young, who would be the first of four relievers.
Jose Altuve led off the first inning with a single and advanced to second when George Springer drew a walk. They both advanced on a single by budding superstar Chris Correa and Altuve came in to score on a Colby Rasmus ground out to second. Springer scored on an Evan Gattis ground out.
Houston scored another run in the second when Altuve, get used to seeing his name, drove in Jake Marisnick from second. Kendrys Morales put KC on the board with a solo homerun to right field.
Morales had another solo home run in the fourth to bring the score to 3-2 Astros. The only other runs would be scored by the Astros when Springer hit a solo home run in the fifth and Colby Rasmus hit another in the eighth.
The Astros come into the ALDS fresh off of a 3-0 win over the Yankees on Tuesday in the Bronx behind former Arkansas Razorback, and ace, Dallas Keuchel. Great for them, but now Keuchel is unable to pitch against KC until game 3.
The Astros finished 5th in the AL with 729 runs scored. They ranked second in the league with 230 home runs, just two behind the league leader, Toronto Blue Jays. Their 121 stolen bases led the league. The offense posted a slash line of .250/.314/.437 with a BABIP of .292. They were second in the league, again to the Blue Jays, with a wOBA of .325.
The starters racked up a record of 59-46 with an ERA of 3.71, an FIP of 3.80 and an xFIP of 3.81. Overall, they held their opponents to a BAA of .248 while having a K% and a BB% of 19.9% and 7% respectively, with a WHIP of 1.25.
Game 2 starter Scott Kazmir was acquired by the Astros in a trade with the Oakland A’s for a couple of prospects in late July. He started 12 games for Houston and he had a 2-6 record. For the season, in 31 starts this year, he is 7-11 with an ERA 3.10, an FIP of 3.98 and a xFIP of 4.10. Tonight would be a good time for him to have a little run support. He’s faced the Royals three times this year, twice with Oakland. In the first game he threw 7 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs for a no decision. In game two he went seven innings and allowed three earned runs and took the loss. His first game with Houston was against the Royals and he threw seven innings of shutout ball and recorded his first win against them.
Kazmir mixes his pitches pretty well, but doesn’t really feature any of them. He throws his four-seam 32% of the time, coming in at around 93-mph. He uses his sinker 26% of the time, followed by his changeup at 18%. The separation between the fastball and the change is larger than with most pitchers with the change coming in at around 77-mph. A difference between 10-mph and 7-mph is considered good. Kazmir also throws a cutter (13%) and mixes in a curve and a slider.
The bullpen notched a 27-30 record with 39 saves, 79 holds and 19 blown saves in 457 1/3 innings pitched. They had K/9 and BB/9 rates of 9.11 and 2.66, respectively, and their K/9 was second only to the Yankees mark of 10.11. They had a HR/9 rate of .89 and their BAA of .216 was second to the Royals .211 mark. Their BABIP was .270, second to, you guessed it, the Royals, at .258.
The pen is led by groundball specialist (60.4%) and closer Luke Gregerson who had a record of 7-3 with 31 saves in 64 games.
The Astros first half line of .240/.306/.417 with a .313 wOBA improved to .263/.326/.461 with a wOBA of .339 in the second half. They had a shockingly better record at home going 53-28, and went just 33-48 on the road. Their L/R splits are almost dead even, .248/.321/./.432 facing lefties and .251/.312/.439 facing righties. They also had twice as many ABs against righties (3643) than lefties (1816) so choose your grain of salt accordingly.
Homers and Steals
They are led by the only player who can look up to Dustin Pedroia, Jose Altuve. In 2012, Bryan Trostel created howmanyaltuves.com as the new standard of measurement for home runs. Altuve is an excellent lead off hitter, recording 200 or more hits in each of the last two years. His OBP for the past four seasons has been .340, .316, .377 and .353. This year he hit 15 home runs, a personal high for him, and stole 38 bases ‒ second most in his career with last year’s 56 being his high.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals come into the ALDS with a fully rested pitching staff, thanks to having the best record in the American League. The extra days off also allowed their position players to heal up from the usual bumps and bruises suffered during a 162-game season, which should give them an advantage over the Astros. They’ve also been able to keep to their usual routine with the series starting in KC.
The Royals were 6th in the AL with 724 runs scored but ranked just 14th in HRs, with 139, only three more than the White Sox. They ranked second in the league with 104 stolen bases.
Manager Ned Yost is old school, and doesn’t believe that a walk is as good as a hit, which explains why they were last in the league in bases on balls with just 383. One thing they did very well was take advantage of the power alleys, hitting 300 doubles to go along with their 1,016 singles. This helps to explain their slash line of .269/.322/.412 with a wOBA of .318.
The starters had a record of 65-53 with an ERA of 4.34, a FIP of 4.32, and a xFIP of 4.48. Overall, they held opponents to a BAA of .266 while having a K% and a BB% of 16.8% and 7.6% respectively, with a WHIP of 1.37.
The Royals acquired Johnny Cueto in a trade right before the deadline with the Reds. His delivery is unique and reminds people of Luis Tiant, minus the cigar. He pitched well in his first four games for the Royals, but then got lit up like the Luftwaffe on a night raid over London in his next five starts. People throughout baseball wondered if he had an injury that he was trying to pitch through. He found his Cuetoness over his next four starts and baseball breathed a sigh of relief as he should land the multi-year deal he is hoping for this off-season.
Cueto has an 11-13 record over 32 games with an ERA of 3.44, a FIP of 3.54 and a xFIP of 3.78. He features his four-seam fastball (34%), a sinker (20%) and a slider (18%). He throws the four-seam and the sinker around 93-mph. He’ll also throw a changeup (13%) and cutter (12%), along with the occasional curve.
The bullpen collected a 30-14 record, with 56 saves, 79 holds and 20 blown saves in 539 1/3 innings pitched. They had K/9 and BB/9 rates of 8.38 and 3.19, respectively. They had a HR/9 rate of .80 and lead the league with a BAA of 211. Their BABIP was .258 and led the league.
Offensively the Royals were better in the second half of the season, but not by much, .262/.320/.416 with a .319 wOBA compared to .274/.324/.408, with a wOBA of .317. They also had a better record at home going 51-30, while they went 44-37 on the road. Their L/R splits are very close, .272/.323/./.406 facing lefties and .266/.321/.416 facing righties. They also had twice as many ABs against righties (3670) than lefties (1905) so choose your grain of salt accordingly with them as well.