ALDS Game 3 Preview: Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals

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 3 preview of the matchup.

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Houston Astros (86-76) vs. Kansas City Royals (95-67)

Astros won the season series (4-2)

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Houston won 5-2

Game 2: KC won 5-4

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

Probable Starters

Game 3: Dallas Keuchel (L) (20-8) vs. Edinson Volquez (R) (13-9)

Game 4: Lance McCullers (R) (6-7) vs. Yovani Ventura (R) (13-8)

Game 5: Colin McHugh (R) (19-7) vs. Johnny Cueto (R) (11-13)[/box]

Game 2 Recap

Both the Royals and the Astros acquired veteran pitchers mid-season for just this sort of game. Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir joined their new clubs in late July as the trade deadline was approaching. Kansas City needed to win to even the series and the Astros would increase their chances of winning the best of three by taking a 2-0 lead back home with them.

Cueto started off the game by getting Jose Altuve to fly out to center, but followed that up by walking George Springer. Correa then struck out looking. Colby Rasmus came to the plate and hit a run scoring double to right. Cueto got out of the inning with no further damage.

Kazmir pitched a scoreless first only giving up a single to Ben Zobrist.

Chris Carter led off the second with a base hit and then Cueto walked Jason Castro. Jake Marisnick bunted to load the bases with no outs. After an Altuve fly out, Springer singled to left to score both Carter and Castro to give Houston a 3-0 lead.

The Royals decided to get in on the fun when Salvador Perez hit a homerun to left.

Colby Rasmus answered in the top of the third with a blast to right center to keep the Houston lead at four.

KC came back to score a run in the bottom of the third when Ben Zobrist knocked in Alex Rios despite hitting into a double play. Rios had led off the inning with a double and reached third on a bunt single by Alcides Escobar.

The fourth and fifth were scoreless and then in the bottom of the sixth the Rangers scored two to tie the game. Lorenzo Cain scored the first run after hitting a double to knock Kazmir out of the game. Oliver Perez come on in relief and gave up an RBI single to Eric Hosmer.

Perez came out of the game after a Kendrys Morales single and a walk by Mike Moustakas. Josh Fields entered the game and walked Perez to score Hosmer to tie the game 4-4.

The Royals took the lead for good in the 7th when Escobar hit a triple off of Will Harris and Zobrist singled for an RBI. Wade Davis closed the game out in the ninth. They will face off again on Sunday with the series tied 1-1.

Houston Astros

The Astros came 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.

Overall

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

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.

Dallas Keuchel started Houston’s Wild Card Game against the Yankees on Tuesday on three days rest and showed the world what he’s capable of. The bearded lefty made 33 starts this year and went 20-8. That record paired with his 2.48 ERA, 2.91 FIP and 2.75 xFIP make him a prime candidate for the AL Cy Young Award. Keuchel is a sinkerball (49.87%) pitcher that mixes in a slider (19.91%), change (13.64%), cutter (9.93%) and four-seam fastball (6.65%). His sinker and four-seam average 90-mph while his other offerings range from 79-87-mph.

ALDSpreview-Keuchel

The Relievers

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 Offense

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.

After Altuve the pitcher then gets to face, in no particular order, Rookie of the Year candidate Carlos Correa, George Springer, Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus, Luis Valbuena and Chris Carter. Good luck.

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.

Overall

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

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.

Veteran Edinson Volquez will be the Game 3 starter for the Royals. The right-hander made 33 starts this season with a 3.55 ERA, 3.82 FIP a 4.26 xFIP, and a 13-9 record. Volquez throws a sinker (44.22%), change (24.99%), curve (24.05%) and the occasional four-seam fastball (6.74%). His sinker sits near 95-mph while his changeup and curveball are 81-mph and 85-mph, respectively.of the bullpen. In his starts, Estrada was 12-8 with a 3.28 ERA, a 4.43 FIP and a 4.99 xFIP. He mostly throws four-seam fastballs (52.36%) with his change (28.05%) being his favored secondary pitch. He also mixes in a curve (11.25%) and cutter (8.31%). His fastball averages 90-mph while his change comes in at 79-mph.

ALDSpreview-Volquez

The Relievers

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.

The pen is led by closer Wade Davis who took over for Greg Holland late in the season. Davis had a record of 8-1 with 17 saves in 69 games.

The Offense

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.

The Royals are led on offense by Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales.

Rick Rowand has written about the value of Brock Holt, Boston’s rotationBrock Holt’s cycle and aura, and a series about Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart, a screenplay of Napoli’s last days on the Sox, Travis Shaw, what to do with Hanley Ramirez, and Kim Ng.

Follow Rick on Twitter @rrowand.

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