ALCS Game 3 Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

Both 2015 ALDS series are in the books and the ALCS matchup is set. The Toronto Blue Jays will face the Kansas City Royals in a best of seven series to determine who goes on to the World Series. Rick Rowand brings us his ALCS Game 3 preview in anticipation of the matchup.

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Toronto Blue Jays (93-69) vs. Kansas City Royals (95-67)

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Kansas City won 5-0

Game 2: Kansas City won 6-3

Game 3 @ Toronto 8:07 Monday 10/19  FS1

Game 4 @ Toronto 3:00 Tuesday 10/20 FS1

Game 5 @ Toronto 3:00 Wednesday 10/21 FS1*

Game 6 @ Kansas City 7:00 Friday 10/23 FS1*

Game 7 @ Kansas City 7:30 Saturday 10/24 FS1*

All times are Eastern

*if necessary

Probable Starters:

Game 3: Marcus Stroman (4-0) (R) vs. Johnny Cueto (11-13) (R)

Game 4: R.A. Dickey (R) (11-11) vs. Chris Young (R) (11-6)[/box]

Game 2 Recap

Game 2 in Kansas City opened up with both pitchers, David Price and Yordano Ventura, on their game for the first couple of innings. It wasn’t until the third inning that a run crossed the plate when Ventura gave up two doubles to lead off the third. The first was by Kevin Pillar and he scored when Ryan Goins then doubled him home. Ventura was able to get the next three batters out with no more runners crossing the plate. 1-0 Toronto.

Price and Ventura traded shutout innings until the sixth, when Josh Donaldson led off with an infield single and Ventura walked Jose Bautista to set up the inning ending triple play. Unfortunately, he forgot to tell Edwin Encarnacion what the plan was and the DH singled driving in Donaldson and increasing the lead to 2-0. After Chris Colabello struck out, Troy Tulowitzki doubled to right field, scoring Bautista and moving Encarnacion the third. Luke Hochevar came into the game in relief after Ventura walked Russell Martin and was able to get the next two hitters out. Inning over. 3-0 Toronto.

Price struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth and Danny Duffy entered the game for KC in the top of the seventh and retired all three batters in order.

Then came the fateful bottom of the seventh when David Price remembered that he was pitching in a playoff game.

Ben Zobrist lead off with a single, and Lorenzo Cain followed up with another. Eric Hosmer drove in Zobrist from second with another single and Cain moved up to third. 3-1 Toronto.

Kendrys Morales ground out to short, scoring Cain and moving Hosmer to second. 3-2 Toronto. One out.

Mike Moustakas continued Price’s Death by 1000 Cuts by hitting another single, scoring Hosmer. He advanced to second on the throw. 3-3 Toronto. One out.

Salvador Perez struck out ending the singles barrage. 3-3 Toronto. Two outs.

Alex Gordon then doubled to the gap in right center, scoring Moustakas and ending Price’s day. 4-3 Kansas City. Two outs.

Aaron Sanchez came in to try to stop the bleeding. He failed, as Alex Rios drove in Moustakas with a single to center. Price pitched 6 ⅔ innings allowing five earned runs on six hits, adding more misery to his playoff memories. Alcides Escobar grounded out to end the inning. 5-3 Kansas City.

Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless top of the eighth. Sanchez started the bottom of the eighth but was relieved by Aaron Loup after a fly out and a walk to Cain. Cain got caught stealing second, but Loup then walked Morales and Hosmer setting the stage for Moustakas to drive in Morales to end the scoring in the eighth. 6-3 Kansas City.

Ned Yost brought in Wade Davis to close out the game. Davis added a little more drama by giving up a hit and a walk before getting the next three batters out to end the game. KC leads the best of seven series going to Toronto 2-0 after the improbable comeback.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays made large moves at the trading deadline, acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, helping them capture the AL East crown and win home field advantage in the ALDS. They went the full five games against the Rangers, winning at home in Game 5 that featured a bizarre 7th inning.

Overall

The Blue Jays had by far the most runs scored in baseball with 891 ‒ 127 more than the second-place Yankees. They led the AL in home runs (232) and had the fourth most steals (88). The team hit a combined .269/.340/.457 with a league-leading .344 wOBA.

The Starters

Toronto’s rotation went 62-54, putting up a 4.32 ERA, a 4.39 FIP, and a 4.53 xFIP in 940 ⅔ innings of work. They held opponents to a .266 BAA while walking 7.6%, and striking out 15.7%, with a 1.37 WHIP.

Game 3 Starter

Down 2-0, Game 3 is a must-win situation for Toronto since no team has ever come back from a three-game deficit to win the ALCS.

Toronto hopes to able to put the disastrous Game 2 defeat behind them as they start Marcus Stroman in Game 3 in Toronto. He has pitched well in his two playoff starts this year. The righty went seven innings in his first game allowing three earned runs (four overall) with just five hits and two walks. In his second game, the decisive Game 5 against the Rangers, he went six innings allowing just two runs on six hit and one walk.

Stroman only pitched in four games for the Jays after rehabbing from an ACL tear. He put up a 1.67 ERA, a 3.54 FIP and a 3.34 xFIP. He features good mix of pitches. He throws his four seam FB 31% of the time, the sinker 22%, the curve and the cutter 15%, the slider 9% and the change 8%. The FB and the sinker are in the 91-95-mph range with his offspeed and breaking pitches in the 83-88-mph range.

2015 ALCS Game 3 Preview IMG 1

The Relievers

The Blue Jays’ bullpen had a 26-20 record, with 45 saves, 94 holds and 17 blown saves in 502 innings of work. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.19 and 3.60, respectively. The bullpen allowed 1.13 HR/9 and a BAA of .245. Their BABIP was .290.

20-year-old Roberto Osuna took over the closer’s role in late-June and has saved 20 games while blowing only three opportunities.

The Offense

The MLB-leading offense improved dramatically in the second half, hitting .274/.350/.478 after posting a .264/.331/.441 line in the first half. The Blue Jays hit .266/.335/.455 against right-handed pitching, while feasting on left-handed pitching to the tune of .278/.354/.463. The Blue Jays were significantly better at home than on the road: .278/.351/.485 at the Rogers Centre versus .260/.329/.431 away.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

Toronto’s high-powered offense is led by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. Donaldson’s first year in Toronto went as well as anyone could have hoped, blasting 41 home runs with a .297/.371/.568 line. He’s joined by sluggers Jose Bautista (40 HR) and Edwin Encarnacion (39 HR).

Kansas City Royals

The Royals also went five games against the Astros, despite having home field advantage. Having gone through the increased scrutiny of the ALCS last season, the Royals should be better prepared for it. And their fan base is much smaller than the Jays, despite the bandwagoners who have hopped on. After all, the Blue Jays fan base is now includes (approximately) the entire country of Canada.

Overall

The Royals ranked 6th in the AL with 724 runs scored but hit just 14th in HRs ( 139), only three more than the White Sox. They ranked second in the league with 104 stolen bases.

The Royals were last in the league in bases on balls with just 383, as manager Ned Yost is not a proponent of the “walk is as good as a hit” philosophy. One thing they did very well was take advantage of the power alleys, hitting 300 doubles, explaining their slash line of .269/.322/.412, with a wOBA of .318.

The Starters

The starters had a record of 65-53 with a 4.34 ERA, a 4.32 FIP, and a 4.48 xFIP. Overall, they held opponents to a BAA of .266 while having a K% and a BB% of 16.8% and 7.6%, respectively, and a WHIP of 1.37.

Game 3 Starter

Kansas City comes into Toronto full of confidence, both in their offense and in Game 3 starter Johnny Cueto.

Cueto pitched in Games 2 and 5 of the ALDS. In the first game he wasn’t sharp giving up four runs in the first three innings. He settled down after that and left the game after six innings allowing four runs on seven hits, three walks with five strikeouts.

In Game 5, Cueto pitched very well allowing just two earned runs in eight innings on two hits with eight strikeouts.

In the regular season, Cueto posted an 11-13 record in 32 starts with an ERA of 3.44, a FIP of 3.55 and a xFIP of 3.78. His go-to pitch is his four-seam fastball (34%), followed by his sinker(20%) and slider (18%). He’ll also throw a changeup(13%) and a cutter(12%) with a rare curve. His FB and sinker are thrown in the 93-mph range.

2015 ALCS Game 3 Preview IMG 2

The Relievers

The bullpen had a 30-14 record with 56 saves, 79 holds, and 20 blown saves in 539.1 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 racked up an 8-1 record 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 had a better record at home with a 51-30 record, while going 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 be aware there may be some sample size issues.

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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