Well, that was easier than expected. Mike Trout's home run cleared the fence off James Shields in the first inning of Game 3, giving the Angels a 1-0 lead. If you're like me, though, you had probably already counted Game 3 as a Royals win based on C.J. Wilson getting the nod. Sure enough, here we are.
The Royals next face an Orioles team that feels a lot more slump-proof to me. In fact, if I'm going, for a moment, strictly off gut feeling and nothing else, I have no idea who to pick for this series. I thought the Royals actually had a very good chance to upset the Angels, but I'm not sure what to do about two teams that both have that "Team Of Destiny" feel about them. The Royals are here despite everything you've read and seen about them this year that suggests they're riding luck, pitching, and singles. The Orioles are here without their starting DH, 3B, or C, all of which were All-Star caliber players last year. Our manager is a knucklehead. Their manager believes guys with low butts aren't all that good at baseball, though he can definitely manage a team better.
Baseball, people, sometimes part of the fun is in the unpredictable. Let's Go Royals, even if a win here might extend Dayton Moore's contract through the next couple centuries. Here are your Pitching Staff Ups and Downs for the last couple series of the regular season, the WC game, and the ALDS:
Wins for the Royals in both the play-in game versus Oakland and the triumph in Game 3 have sort of covered up the fact that Shields have been pretty mediocre in his last three starts. He gave up three runs against the White Sox in his last regular season start, which only counts as a quality start through six inning if it isn't against the Twins or White Sox. In the play-in game, he only made it through five innings while giving up a dinger to Brandon Moss and four runs. In Game 3, he did turn in a quality effort overall, giving the Royals six solid innings...but even that may have been fortunate, as the Angels somehow turned nine baserunners against him into only two runs. Plus, most of the time, if a starter gives up two home runs in six innings, more than two runs are scored.
Shields hasn't necessarily been bad, but he hasn't been sharp at all either. Here's hoping he comes around in Game 1, as the Orioles have good team power and KC will need him to put a lid on that.
Vargas also turned in a start with good final results against the Angels, and it was good to see him not get lit up--he finished the regular season on a down stretch. Unlike Shields, he actually did limit baserunners in his six innings against the Angels. Like Shields, he still gave up two home runs. No one's suggesting that the Royals didn't deserve to beat the Angels, as they outplayed the better team by quite a bit, but it's anyone's guess how long KC's starters can pull the trick of not having anyone on base when the opposition leaves the park.
Still, a start where Vargas made it through six and only surrendered two runs, even if they came on dong-hangings, was refreshing given that his ERA over his previous four outings looked a bit like a Tax ID number.
Used in the capacity he's actually supposed to be used in, Ventura excelled. You'll excuse me if I can't take his second relief appearance all year seriously when evaluating his performance, because Ned Yost's bizarre decision to bring in the young starter with men on base in a do-or-die playoff game was indefensible (the only thing that would've been worse would've been Aaron Crow suddenly riding a motorcycle out to the mound). Ventura earns the up arrow for seven innings of one-run ball, complete with 5 K's and only one walk. He's up at 190+ innings on the year, and he's clearly one of the Royals best three options to start a game as long as he can hold off rookie fatigue.
Pitched a clean inning in the ALDS, which isn't enough for the stat robots to not give him a down arrow due to his two-inning, four-run, no-K last regular season outing. Duffy doesn't figure to be in the rotation for the ALCS, but he could be a weapon out of the 'pen.
Guthrie has not appeared in the postseason, as his green is based on being one of the few members of the pitching staff who remembered what he was supposed to do against the White Sox. His seven scoreless innings against them brought his season ERA to a final resting place of 4.13, which, while it overstates his capabilities, was not the disaster that it might've been.
I'm not going to pile on a guy for a subpar performance where he might've been hurt, but let me go on record as saying that Herrera better actually be healthy before he gets run out there again. As good as Herrera has been this year, the Royals have other bullpen options.
Holland was shaky in the WC game, walking three in his only inning pitched. He was also money in the ALDS, striking out six in three innings and locking down both Games 1 and 2. I think it's fair to weight the latter a little more heavily, given that he hasn't allowed a run yet anyway.
Not sure what's up with Davis of late, as he's been allowing more baserunners than IP since last we met, and he's also allowed a couple runs. What with the year he's had being so insanely good, it's hard to parse the cause. Was Davis "due" to finally give up some runs? Or is he tiring to the point where this could be an issue?
Frasor's only allowed one hit through his last four appearances, which about as good a performance you can ask for from the situational righty. One wonders if his role in the ALCS might be larger if other options continue to creak/relatively struggle. Has he been assigned an inning already?
Finnegan was probably asked to do too much by pitching into a third inning of the WC game, as he's been effective when called upon thus far. Finnegan should probably still be the high leverage lefty, even if he's shown a little less invincibility of late.
The Royals are back in action tomorrow in Baltimore. You may have already heard.