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 5 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 won 5-4
Game 3: Houston won 4-2
Game 4: KC won 9-6
Game 5: @ KC Wednesday 10/14 8:00 PM FS1
All times are in Eastern
Game 4 Recap
Houston entered Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead over the Royals and had high hopes of closing out the series in front of their fans. Starting 22-year-old rookie Lance McCullers, Houston’s offense would contend with Kansas City’s 24-year-old Yordano Ventura in this must win game* for the Royals.
McCullers started auspiciously, hitting the first batter he faced. With that out of the way, he set down the next three batters in order. Ventura tried a different approach, waiting until there were two outs before hitting a batter. He too, escaped the first unscathed.
Demonstrating his ability to change strategies during the game, McCullers struck out Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. He coughed up a gopher ball to Salvador Perez, who deposited it in right center, scoring two runs, before escaping the frame
Not to be outdone, Ventura matched McCullers with a meatball of his own to Carlos Gomez, who brought in the Astros first run of the game and gave a lucky fan in left a souvenir.
The Astros trailed by one into the bottom of the third until Ventura gave up his second homer of the game, this time to Carlos Correa, tying the game at 2.
Houston took a 3-2 lead into the sixth when Correa doubled in George Springer. The game then turned into a battle of the bullpens, with Kelvin Herrera replacing Ventura in the top of the sixth, and Will Harris relieving McCullers in the middle of the seventh.
Herrera walked Jose Altuve to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and was himself replaced by Ryan Madson. Correa welcomed him to the game with his second homer of the game, widening the lead and Colby Rasmus followed with a solo shot to make it 6-2 Astros.
After Madson got out of the 7th inning Texas Governor Greg Abbott sealed the Astros’ fate with this tweet:
The tweet was quickly deleted, but the Fates had been tempted..
Next up, Kendrys Morales. With the bases loaded and still no outs, Morales hit into a fielder’s choice that Correa misplayed, scoring Ben Zobrist and Cain and moving Hosmer to third. Game tied at 6.
Jarrod Dyson entered as a pinch runner for Morales and promptly stole second base. On a positive note, Sipp was able to strike out Moustakas for the first out of the inning. Luke Gregerson came on and walked the first batter he faced, Drew Butera to load the bases yet again. Alex Gordon grounded out to second, scoring Hosmer, and Gregerson was able to get out of the inning without further damage. 7-6 Kansas City.
Wade Davis came in to pitch the eighth for KC and held the Astros scoreless. 7-6 Kansas City.
Houston brought in Josh Fields to face the Royals in the ninth, trying to hold the Royals to a one run lead. He didn’t.
Fields walked Zobrist and then struck out Cain on three pitches. Hosmer then smashed a two run homer, increasing the lead. 9-6 Kansas City.
Wade Davis closed out the game, allowing only a base hit to, you guessed it, Correa. With the series tied at 2 we’re going back to Kansas City for the decisive game 5.
*Please feel free to use your own cliche here. Some good examples are: do or die, fish or cut bait, win or go home etc.
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.
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.
The Astros turn to Game 1 starter Collin McHugh for Game 5. McHugh was brilliant, save for two solo home runs, in the first game of the series. He pitched six strong innings giving up just those two runs, four hits, one walk, and struck out one.
McHugh notched a 19-7 record with a 3.89 ERA, a .358 FIP, and a 3.91 xFIP in 32 games. He primarily throws a four-seam fastball (33%), a slider (32%) and a curve (23%). He also mixes in a change, a cutter and a sinker. The FB and the sinker are in the 91-mph range.
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.
Game 2 starter Johnny Cueto toes the rubber for the Royals in the must-win Game 5. The right-hander got into trouble early in Game 2, allowing four runs in the first three innings before settling down. His final line stood at six innings, four runs, seven hits, three walks, and five strikeouts.
Cueto posted an 11-13 record over 32 games, with an ERA of 3.44, a FIP of 3.54, and an xFIP of 3.78. He feature a four-seam fastball (34%), sinker (20%) and slider (18%). He throws the four-seam and the sinker around 93-mph. He’ll also mix in 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.
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.
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.