Matchup: Kansas City Royals (AL) vs. San Francisco Giants (NL)
Who would have seen this matchup coming? Not only is this the second-ever World Series involving two wild card teams, neither team even was able to win ninety games. Considering that the postseason has been a little bit of a dud so far, here’s hoping for a good Series.
Keys for the Royals:
1. Use home field advantage: The Royals play a potential Game Seven at Kauffman Stadium on October 29. Since we still aren’t sure about who Kansas City will pitch in Game Three, it’s important for Kansas City to split the first two games. If Madison Bumgarner is able to beat James Shields, pressure will be on Yordano Ventura to win Game Two. Granted, Jake Peavy has been known to struggle in the postseason, but earning a split in Kansas City is crucial. If not, it could be a very short series. Still, the Royals are the first team to win the World Series after losing the first two games at home (1985), a feat accomplished only twice since (1986 Mets and 1996 Yankees). Earn a split, and if you get it back to Kansas City, they could be very dangerous. Additionally, no team has won a Game Seven of the World Series on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. All but one of those teams has won Game Six (the 1997 Florida Marlins). If Kansas City gets it to a Game Six, and wins, it could be a dream scenario for them.
2. Don’t underestimate the layoff: The Royals have a layoff of almost a week. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies went 7-0 heading into the World Series. But with an eight-day layoff, and starting the Series on the road, they were quickly swept in Boston, and didn’t put up much of a fight. When a team has momentum, sometimes it’s more beneficial for them to play sooner rather than later.
3. Embrace the underdog role: The Royals are the upstart team. It’s their first appearance in the playoffs, let alone the World Series, in twenty-nine years. The Giants in that time have made the playoffs nine times (1987, 1989, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2010, 2012, 2014). They have played in four World Series- 1989, 2002, 2010, and 2012, winning the last two in convincing fashion. The Royals may be playing with house money, and may not have the familiarity, but they’ve done reasonably well so far.
Keys for the Giants
1. Utilize the pitching: The Giants probably have a deeper pitching staff. Six potential starters exist in this rotation- Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Hudson. All six have made at least one All-Star team, Peavy and Lincecum won Cy Young Awards, Lincecum and Cain have pitcher no-hitters, Hudson won 20 games, and all but Hudson have played on at least one World Series winner. Although Cain is injured, and Lincecum will likely be used out of the bullpen by Bruce Bochy, this is a deep pitching staff. When you consider the rest of the bullpen, including Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Hunter Strickland, and Yusmeiro Petit, this could be a very short series if the Giants are able to use their pitching staff.
2. Embrace familiarity: most of the Giants roster has been on one World Series winner, if not both. The Giants are playing in their third World Series in five years, and have done it with many of the same players. Bruce Bochy went from decent manager to savior in San Francisco. The Giants might not have the record on their side, but they do have the postseason experience. That will count for a lot.
3. Continue playing well on the road: The Giants, believe it or not, have not clinched a World Series at home since 1922, when they beat the Yankees in the old Polo Grounds. Every subsequent clincher, in New York or San Francisco, has been on the road (1933 in Washington, 1954 in Cleveland, 2010 in Arlington, and 2012 in Detroit). The Giants have been dynamic on the road throughout their postseason history, and that could play to their strength.
4. Finish early: History hasn’t been kind to the Giants if a series goes to six games or more. They are 0-4 in Game Sevens in the World Series, losing in 1912 to the Red Sox, 1924 to the Senators, 1962 to the Yankees, and 2002 to the Angels, with the first three coming by one run. In fact, the Giants didn’t win their first postseason winner-take-all game until 2012, winning Game Five of the 2012 NLDS against the Reds in Cincinnati (they also won Game Seven at home against the Cardinals). If the Giants want to win the Series, they need to try to ensure that it doesn’t go past five games.
Although the Royals have been the fan favorite for many, I think the Giants have history and the pitching on their side. I think the Royals should split in Kansas City, so if they want to give themselves a better chance, they need to win at least one game in San Francisco, if not two.
If I’m wrong, so be it, but my pick: Giants in 5