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 6 preview in anticipation of the matchup.
Toronto Blue Jays (93-69) vs. Kansas City Royals (95-67)
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 won 7-1
Game 6 @ Kansas City 8:00 Friday 10/23 FS1
Game 7 @ Kansas City 8:00 Saturday 10/24 FS1*
All times are Eastern
Game 7: Marcus Stroman (R) (4-0) vs. TBD[/box]
Game 5 Recap
Toronto fans had to be feeling nervous heading into Game 5, with their beloved Jays down 3-1 and facing Edinson Volquez, who had shut them out for six innings in the series opener. Toronto countered with their own Game 1 starter, Marco Estrada, who had previously failed to match Volquez, allowing three runs in 5 ⅓ innings.
Chris Colabello soon eased some of their anxiety when he hit a solo homer in in the second to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. After that, both Estrada and Volquez traded shutout innings until the bottom of the sixth when the Blue Jays offense woke up. Actually, it was more a case of Volquez waking them up from their slumber, as the first four batters didn’t need to do much except stand in the batter’s box while Volquez supplied the offense.
He started by walking Ben Revere and followed that with hitting Josh Donaldson. Volquez then walked Jose Bautista to load the bases for Edwin Encarnacion, whom he also walked to push across Toronto’s second run. Volquez then walked himself to the dugout to make way for reliever Kelvin Herrera, who came straight into the fire with a bases-loaded, no-outs situation.
He was able to strike out Colabello, but the next hitter, Troy Tulowitzki, hit a double to plate all three runners and give Toronto a 5-0 lead. Herrera struck out the next two hitters to finally end the inning.
Estrada went back out to the mound again for Toronto without missing a beat, pitching another shutout in the seventh with only a walk by Lorenzo Cain to mar the score box. Danny Duffy relieved Herrera to start the bottom of the seventh and started well, striking out Ryan Goins and Revere before Donaldson hit a double to centerfield. Bautista followed that up with a double of his own, scoring Donaldson to increase the lead to 6-0.
Estrada’s shutout disappeared in the top of the eighth when Salvador Perez took him deep to cut Toronto’s lead to 6-1. After giving up a hit to Alex Gordon, Estrada exited the game and Aaron Sanchez came on in relief.
Not satisfied with a five-run lead, Toronto scored again off of Danny Duffy in the bottom of the eighth when Tulo hit a single and then scored on a Kevin Pillar double to deep center. Pillar then ended the inning when he was thrown out trying to reach third.
Toronto took a 7-1 lead going into the top of the ninth with Roberto Osuna pitching. Three up, three down. Toronto pulls closer in the series, 3-2, with the games going back to Kansas City.
Game 6 in Kansas City should be interesting with David Price pitching for Toronto and Yordano Ventura on the mound for KC in a rematch of Game 2.
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.
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.
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 6 Starter
David Price pitched a shutout for six innings in Game 2, and then John Gibbons sent him back out in the seventh to face the KC lineup for the third time. That decision turned out to be a disaster, as Price gave up four runs on five hits and was charged with a fifth earned run when Sanchez, who had come on in relief, gave up a run scoring single to Ryan Goins before Alcides Escobar ended the inning with a groundout.
I wrote this about Price prior to his Game 2 start:
“While Price has been good in the regular season for years, his outings in the postseason are a different story. Now, being rational human beings, we all know that the small sample size of postseason results shouldn’t matter. it makes far more sense to look at what he’s done over the entirety of his career. But being irrational human beings, we all know that is crap. The guy can’t pitch in the postseason. Even his own team knows it. They had Price throw three complete innings out of the bullpen in a Game 4 victory just so they wouldn’t be tempted to start him in Game 5. In 50 playoff innings pitched he has an ERA of 5.04, yielding 51 hits and allowing 28 earned runs. His WHIP in the postseason is 1.24.”
Price recorded 9 wins and 1 loss in his 11 starts with the Blue Jays, going 18-5 overall between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto. Over the whole season, he put up a 2.45 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 3.24 xFIP. Price throws a four-seam fastball (28.80%), sinker (24.25%) and changeup (23.05%). He also utilizes a cutter (16.08%) and curveball (7.82%). His fastballs sit around 95-mph, while his changeup averages 85-mph.
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 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.
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 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.
Yordano Ventura gave up three runs in his Game 2 start against Toronto. The first came in the third when a Ryan Goins double scored Kevin Pillar, and the next two came in the sixth when Donaldson scored from second on an Edwin Encarnacion single and then Tulowitzki doubled to bring in Bautista, who had walked.
Ventura posted a 13-8 record this season, with a 4.08 ERA, 3.57 FIP, and 3.50 xFIP in 28 starts in the regular season. He features a four-seam FB (37%), curve (24%), sinker (21%), change (15%), along with the occasional cutter. He’s a power pitcher, throwing both his FB and sinker at 96+ mph.
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.
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.