ALCS Game 5 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 are facing 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 5 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 won 11-8

Game 4: Kansas City won 14-2

Game 5 @ Toronto 4:00 Wednesday 10/21 FS1*

Game 6 @ Kansas City 8:00 Friday 10/23 FS1*

Game 7 @ Kansas City 8:00 Saturday 10/24 FS1*

All times are Eastern

*if necessary

Probable Starters:

Game 5: Marco Estrada (R) (13-8) vs Edinson Volquez (R) (13-9)

Game 6: David Price (L) (18-5) vs. TBD

Game 7: Marcus Stroman (R) (4-0) vs. TBD[/box]

Game 4 Recap

They should just go ahead and change the name of the Rogers Centre to the Zobrist Centre and be done with it. Not only does he have 12 regular season home runs there, he added a postseason homer to the total in Game 4 of the ALCS.

“If it’s high let it fly. If it’s low let it go.” Anyone who’s watched a game on TV with a knuckleballer on the mound has heard that phrase many times. You’ve probably also heard, “See the ball, hit the ball.” more than a few times as well. This was one of those , “See the ball…” games for the Royals because it didn’t really matter where Dickey threw the ball in the two innings he pitched, technically it was 1 ⅔ innings, but close enough in this case. As you can see in the graphic below, the location of the ball in the strike zone was largely irrelevant:

Ben Zobrist certainly didn’t care when he hit his two-run shot in the first to start the scoring deluge. By the time the inning was over, the Royals had scored four runs on three hits. In addition to the home run by Zobrist, there were singles by Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer and a walk by Lorenzo Cain. 4-0 Kansas City.

KC starter Chris Young pitched a scoreless first. Dickey allowed one run in the second inning off a home run by Alex Rios. He was taken out of the game with two outs in the inning for Liam Hendriks who got the final out.

No more runs scored until the bottom of the third when the Jays scored two giving the Jays and their fans a glimmer of hope. 5-2 Kansas City.

The score stayed 5-2 until the top of the seventh when John Gibbons, inserted the ghost of LaTroy Hawkins into the game to start the inning. He lasted all of three hitters: walk, base hit, base hit. Ryan Tepera relieved Hawkins with no outs and the bases loaded. Tepera got out number one on a fly ball to center. Unfortunately for him, Alcides Escobar hit it deep enough to score Salvador Perez from third. 6-2 KC. Tepera then threw a wild pitch with Zobrist at the plate, scoring Gordon from third. 7-2 KC. Zobrist walked to put runners at first and third and Lorenzo Cain singled, scoring pinch-runner Paulo Orlando from third and moving Zobrist up two bases. 8-2 KC. Zobrist scored on  Mike Moustakas sac fly. 9-2 KC.

If you are a fan of station to station baseball you must have to be loved this game. Toronto failed to score in their half of the inning and Gibbons sent Tepera back out to play the role of sacrificial lamb in the top of the eighth. He gave up three more runs without a home run: ground out, double, walk, single, sac fly, single, single. 12-2 Toronto.

At this point in the game it was bench emptying time. Toronto took this to the extreme and used a position player in relief, something that has never happened in the ALCS before. And who was this lucky soul? Utility infielder Cliff Pennington, giving him a claim to fame that super sub Brock Holt has yet to achieve. Even though Pennington allowed two runners to score, they were charged to reliever Mark Lowe’s account and Pennington was the only Toronto pitcher to have an ERA of 0 for the game. 14 runs on 15 hits, only one of which was a home run. Not your usual hit/run ratio.
And now Toronto faces an actual must win game down 3-1 in the best of seven series. If they lose, at least they’re at home so they won’t need to endure the plane ride back.

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 5 Starter

In a rematch of Game 1 starters, Marco Estrada once again faces Edinson Volquez, this time with Toronto’s postseason hopes on the line.

In Game 1 of the ACLS Marco Estrada went 5 ⅓ innings and giving up three runs on six hits in the loss.

Estrada started 28 games and had a 13-8 record with a 3.13 ERA, a 4.40 FIP, and a 4.93 xFIP. In 181 regular season innings he had a 6.51 K/9,  2.53 BB/9, WHIP of 1.04 and .202 batting average against.

He features a four-seam FB (53%), that he throws at just under 90-mph, a change (28%) with about 10-mph of separation, as well as a curve (11%) and a cutter (9%).

2015 ALCS Game 5 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 5 Starter

 

In Game 1, Edinson Volquez went six shutout innings, earning the win

He started 33 games in the regular season, posting a 13-9 record with a 3.55 ERA, a 3.82 FIP, and a 4.26 xFIP. In 200 ⅓ innings he had a K/9 of 6.96 and a BB/9 of 3.23, with a WHIP of 1.31 and a BAA of 2.47.

He features a sinker (44%) that he throws at 94-mph, a change (25%) – with about 9-mph of separation between the two –  a curve (24%) and a four seam FB (7%) that comes in around 95-mph.

2015 ALCS Game 5 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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