Tag Archives: Kansas City Royals

October Surprise: KC’s Guthrie Joins List of Unlikely World Series Heroes

26 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Righthanded pitcher Jeremy Guthrie led Kansas City to a win in Game 3 of the 2014 World Series. The series is now tied at 2-2.

Righthanded pitcher Jeremy Guthrie led Kansas City to a win in Game 3 of the 2014 World Series. The series is now tied at 2-2.

The Kansas City Royals moved to within two wins of baseball’s world championship Friday night largely on the efforts of Jeremy Guthrie.

Jeremy who? That’s not Woody or Arlo or even Janet. For those who don’t recognize the name of the 11-year journeyman who owns a career record of 83-100, there are the following dubious distinctions:
1.      Led American League in losses twice (2009, 2011).
2.      Led AL in homers allowed (2009).
3.      Led AL in hits allowed (2013).
4.      Led AL in hit batsmen (2014).
5.      Led AL in errors by a pitcher (2014).

In all, not exactly a glowing resume, but then one of the beauties of the World Series has often been this cardinal rule: hot trumps better. It usually doesn’t apply in the NFL and almost never applies in the NBA (see a pair of lower seeds reach the NBA Finals lately?), but the joy that is October has its own set of rules, where the wave of a magic wand can bring unforeseen gifts.

New York Mets second baseman Al Weis hit a three-run homer against Baltimore 's Dave McNally in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. Photo by Newsday.com

New York Mets second baseman Al Weis hit a three-run homer against Baltimore ‘s Dave McNally in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. Photo by Newsday.com

In this world, Al Weis trumps Davey Johnson. Brian Doyle beats Davey Lopes. And Billy Hatcher? If you’re not careful, in a given year he can trump just about anyone.

The cynics can call it random and unjust. When teams with 88 and 89 wins, respectively, match up, images of John Mahoney screaming at John Cusack while incarcerated in ‘’Say Anything’’ – and lecturing about championing mediocrity – comes to mind.

The horror! And if dynasties are your bag, the ugly possibilities are limitless.
Would Tom Brady succumb to Ryan Fitzpatrick in a conference championship? Can you imagine the Bill Russell Celtics losing a playoff game to the Cincinnati Royals with Oscar Robertson’s sub playing the starring role?

Not on your life, but then baseball has so often been the one pastime where you can proverbially have your cake and eat it too, where conservatism can find a middle ground with the dreamer. In this world, we can tout the Yankee dynasties, while still noting that Derek Jeter only won one world title in his final 14 seasons, a democratic statistical correction by the baseball gods that the other sports cannot match.
October and occasionally a few days before and after grants a starring role for Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Mariano Rivera, but also shines its light upon Moe Drabowsky, Al Gionfriddo and John Stuper. And that’s what we have loved about it for over a century.

Hot trumps logic, invites imagination.

How else do you explain Guthrie outpitching perennial stud and four-time All-Star Tim Hudson in San Francisco in the game history tells us was probably the most important in the series? It’s Gary Gentry outpitching Jim Palmer to a lesser degree all over again, just a few years after a still-developing Palmer outpitched Sandy Koufax at the peak of his powers.

The game invites us to look a little bit closer, noting that while Guthrie’s won-loss record wasn’t all that scintillating (13-11) in 2014, the club was 19-13 in games he started, strong if not imposing. And since a July hiccup in which he went 1-3 with a 10.07 ERA over four starts, Guthrie has been 8-2 over 12 starts, following up a good Game 3 in the ALCS against Baltimore with another rock-solid outing against the Giants.

Peaking at the right time? Good scouting? A manager understanding his pitcher’s limits?
Theories will abound with a little bit of truth in many. But as any magician will tell you, the tricks of the trade are best not revealed, if they can be at all.

Who knows why a Cookie Lavagetto or Don Larsen shine, albeit briefly? But every fall their spirits are resurrected at this time, providing the kind of hope that only can be found in love, the hottest player of all.

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2014 Royals Taking Their Place in Baseball’s History of Improbable Post Season Runs

17 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

The most natural inclination when the Kansas City Royals stunned the Baltimore Orioles in four straight to sweep the 2014 American League Championship Series was to draw comparisons to the 1969 Mets.

Inferior team wins. Said team catches lightning in a bottle, fueled by a bevy of incredible defensive plays. And yet it’s important to remember several pieces of data in the comparison beginning with the realization that the Mets didn’t sweep that series. The Orioles won Game 1 and one of the great what-ifs in baseball history is what might have happened had Baltimore won just one of the four games the Mets juggernaut snagged that week.

New York Mets outfielder makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

New York Mets outfielder Tommy Agee makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Would the Orioles, with Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar slated to go in games 6 and 7 at home, won the series in seven? Or would the Mets have won anyway with more magic from players like Tommie Agee, Donn Clendenon or Al Weis?

To that question we will never know the answer. But as remarkable as that week was, it wasn’t the standard for postseason sweeps, which ironically happened exactly 100 years ago. Since then we’ve had a bevy of great lightning-in-the-bottle stories this time of year and the 2014 Royals may not even rank near the top.

You decide.

1914 Boston Braves: Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s were a dynasty, fueled by great pitching and their $100,000 infield (yeah, that was a long time ago). They were heavy favorites against the Boston Braves, whose manager George ‘’Tweedy’’ Stallings is best remembered for wearing out the seat of his suit pants on the bench. The Braves were in last place on the Fourth of July and then proceeded to go 60-16 to not only win their first pennant, but do so in double digits.

That should have been a warning to pundits of a potential upset, but both the A’s and experts were stunned over four days as Hank Gowdy (an underrated catcher whose career lasted until 1930) hit .545.

1966 Orioles: Once upon a time the Orioles were on the other side of an incredible four-game sweep. This is often forgotten in history since Baltimore went on to win three pennants and another world title only a few years later with much of the same cast. But understand the rep of the 1966 Dodgers: led by 27-game winner Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers were defending champs and had won their third pennant in four years. The Orioles were making their first postseason appearance. But paced by Moe Drabowsky’s amazing relief performance in Game 1, the Dodgers’ offense was shut down, never to reawaken in the most stunning display of four-game pitching in World Series history.

1980  Kansas City Royals: The 1980 Yankees won more regular-season games (103) than either the 1977 or 1978 teams that won it all. Both teams defeated the Royals en route to the crown and the Bombers had a run going of three consecutive postseason series victories over KC. So this was the ultimate grudge match. With homefield advantage, the Yanks were leading at home in Game 3 until George Brett’s long homer off Goose Gossage cemented the three-game sweep.

The 1990 Cincinnati Reds: Lest we forget. The 1988-1990 A’s were very close to being recognized as one of the great dynasties of the last 30 years. But they ran into a hot Dodger team in 1988 and even hotter Cincinnati team two years later. Reds pitchers held the Bash Brothers to only eight runs in four games, but the MVP was Billy Hatcher, whose .750 mark represents one of the great short-series hot streaks in postseason history.

2014 Royals: KC trailed 7-3 late in the wild-card playoff before stunning Oakland. Since that point, they have hardly trailed in their first postseason appearance in 29 years. They wiped out a veteran Angels team, but the nature of their four-game sweep over the Orioles was invigorating and incredible: Baltimore hit well in two games (games 1 and 2), but not enough.

Then it pitched well in the next two, but again it wasn’t enough as the Royals won two games by two runs and two others by one each. Lorenzo Cain was the Royals series MVP, but collectively KC played perhaps the best series defense since the 1969 Mets, using several diving or unlikely catches to shut down every potential Baltimore rally. Can the Royals sustain this momentum into the World Series? A national bandwagon of underdog lovers await in what is becoming one of the great October sagas in recent years.

An Unlikely ALCS Matchup: Baltimore and Kansas City

10 Oct
The Orioles and Royals will have plenty of run-ins like this during the 2014 ALCS.

The Orioles and Royals will have plenty of run-ins like this during the 2014 ALCS.

By Barry Fedorovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

 

Exhaust all your metaphors about Freud, melatonin and the 13 movies that go by the same name. But make no bones about it.

The 2014 American League Championship Series is the Dreamers’ Series, an unlikely clash of two teams that have gone a combined 60 years since their last World Series appearances and yet have swept their way to within four victories of ending that drought.

The wild-card Kansas City Royals travel to Camden Yards to take on the A.L. East champion Baltimore Orioles Friday night to begin a best-of-seven series that is incredibly the first time the two have met in a postseason matchup. Note the long list of near-misses between the teams in the 1970’s and 80’s:

1973: O’s win A.L. East; Royals are second in A.L. West.
1975: Both teams finish second.
1976: Royals win A.L. West; O’s are second in A.L. East.
1977: A repeat of 1976 with the O’s finishing even closer (only 2.5 games behind the first-place Yankees).
1979: O’s win A.L. East; Royals finish second in A.L. West.
1980: Royals reclaim A.L. West title, but this time the O’s fall back, finishing second in the A.L. East (behind the Yankees) despite winning 100 games.
1982: Both teams finish second by narrow margins (the O’s by one game and Royals by three games, respectively).
1983: O’s win the A.L. East; Royals finish second in A.L. West.

That’s eight times in 11 seasons where both teams were either in or on the cusp of the postseason and yet somehow didn’t meet. In all eight cases, both teams entered the season considered a good team (with the most unlikely finish probably being the Royals’ second place in 1973 when the White Sox and A’s were considered co-favorites), ironic in that few pundits would have predicted this year’s clash.

Fueled by their league-leading 153 stolen bases (the same number they pilfered in 2013), the Royals won 89 games, three more than in 2013. Even more surprisingly was the emergence of the Orioles, who actually hit one fewer homer in 2014 (211), but improved by 11 games to run away with the East.

On the surface, that means a clash of opposites: the Royals’ speed versus the Orioles’ power.

The similarities between the teams? Underrated pitching and air-tight defense, the latter which could be a deciding factor in what figures to be a very tight series.
Just look at the respective outfields and you can understand why these teams are playing for the right to play in the World Series.

In Nick Markakis, the Orioles have the only regular right fielder in the American League who didn’t make an error this season. Markakis also led the league in putouts at the position and is flanked by Adam Jones, a Gold Glove centerfielder.
And yet has any recent outfield looked any more impressive in the field than the Royals did in the ALDS against the stunned Angels? In Nori Aoki, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, Kansas City offered a defense that would have made Seattle’s Legion of Boom proud, stealing would-be bloop hits by the bushel and denying extra-base hits at every turn to the point of completely dominating the team with baseball’s best record.

During the regular season, the Royals won four of seven, but it’s almost as if they didn’t meet at all since it’s been so long; their last matchup was May 18. Four of those seven games were decided by one or two runs, which could hint at the tense nature of the series that lies ahead.

It’s not the marquee big-market series television may have wanted, but it could be exciting and at the very least will be the end of a long drought for one city that dares to dream of a championship.

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2014 ALCS: Who Will End Their World Series Drought? Orioles or Royals

10 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For The Chris Murray Report

Baltimore;s Adam Jones and Alex Gordon for the Royals.

Baltimore;s Adam Jones and Alex Gordon for the Royals.

Somebody’s gonna hurt someone before the night is through. Somebody’s gonna come undone. There’s nothing we can do – The Eagles ‘’Heartache Tonight’’

Whose misery will end this week?

Do you prefer the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t won the World Series in 29 years, since George Brett was their regular third baseman and Bret Saberhagen was their ace? Or are you pulling for the Baltimore Orioles, who haven’t won since they took down the Phillies’ Wheeze Kids in 1983, but haven’t played in the Fall Classic in 31 years?

Underdog vs. Underdog in the 2014 American League Championship Series. But only one can win and given what we just saw in twin sweep upsets in the ALDS, it’s not readily apparent who that will be. The more you look at the best-of-seven series that begins at Camden Yards Friday, the more you can become confused.

But all emotion aside, these are very different teams with diametrically opposed reasons for optimism that they will represent the A.L. in the 2014 World Series.

WHY THE ORIOLES WILL WIN

1. They’re the better team- The most debatable point. They’re missing Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, all key components, but they won the ever-tough A.L. East going away, while the Royals had to scramble to claim a wild-card berth. The O’s won 96 games, tied with the Nationals for second-best record in baseball behind the Angels (compared to 89 for the Royals) and really have done the most to this point.

2. They have the best manager- Royals skipper Ned Yost has done a nice job, but is frequently under criticism for his moves (particularly in the wild-card playoff against Oakland). Buck Showalter? Considered the best bet for the Manager of the Year Award, masterfully manipulating a lineup all season that on paper doesn’t even look like a playoff team. When push comes to shove, who will make the moves that make the difference? This year, no one’s been better than Buck.

3. The Orioles have homefield advantage- Rarely a key point, but possibly significant in a series where the two teams will have strong sentiment on their side. The O’s were a healthy 50-31 at Camden Yards this year and should the series go seven games would have the deciding game at home. The Royals were a strong 47-34 on the road (so this could be a push), but at a mediocre 42-39 at the K could have a tough time sweeping the middle three games in Kansas City.

4. The Orioles have the power edge: The Royals may preach speed, but would not have gotten past the Angels without timely homers by Eric Hosmer and Matt Moustakas in the ALDS. Continuing hot streak or brief aberration? The Royals only hit 95 homers this year, fewer than half of Baltimore’s 210, which is usually fully exploited by Camden Yards.

5. Chris Tillman gives the O’s an edge- Both bullpens are great and intuitively the better bullpen wins most series. But in Game 1 starter Chris Tillman, the O’s may have a pitcher who can stymie the Royals. In his lone start against KC this year, he spun a five-hit shutout. Tillman also beat the Royals in one outing in 2013 and hasn’t lost to them in over two years, possibly a key factor since he should start twice in the series.

WHY THE ROYALS WILL WIN

1. They are the hottest team- Among the four remaining playoff teams, no one is clicking all-around like the Royals right now. They can steal seven bases in a game, hit big extra-inning homers, get dominant starting pitching and/or strong relief. They beat the Angels by winning in many ways, which is the easiest path to a championship.

2. Speed doesn’t slump- A key unpredictable factor in any postseason series is weather. Will the wind blow in during key games and neutralize the power of both clubs? Or will wet conditions slow the track and take away the stolen base? More likely the Royals, who led the A.L. in stolen bases, are less prone to slumps. They have speed up and down their lineup (compared to the O’s, who virtually never utilize the stolen base) and are great at making something out of nothing (they were second in baseball in infield hits with 158). Neither team walks a lot, but if you keep the ball in the park, the Royals have a clear edge.

3. The Royals know they can beat the O’s- It was a small sample size, but the Royals won the season series (4-3). Most significant in this was that the Royals won two of three in Baltimore (where the series begins and may end). KC has already shown that it isn’t intimidated by loud postseason road crowds, but it helps to have a positive history in Baltimore.

4. Big Game James- Neither side is long on postseason experience, but it may help the Royals to have James Shields, a veteran of many big September and October clashes during his time with the Rays. Shields could be matched up twice with Chris Tillman this series and just a split in the first two games in Baltimore will go a long way toward giving the Royals the edge in the series.

5. Greg Holland- Most postseason series come down to who blows a game or two in the later innings. In Greg Holland, the Royals possess what may be the best closer in the game. Holland was 1-3 with a 1.44 ERA and 46 saves this year and hasn’t given up a hit in four postseason innings. Going back to last year, Holland has been as good as any reliever in the Junior Circuit and could be the difference if games are decided in the ninth inning.

Conclusion: One hidden factor is homers allowed, an area KC had a clear edge this season (Royals pitchers allowed 128 homers compared to 151 surrendered by the O’s). Add the league’s best eighth-inning man (Wade Davis, 9-1, 1.00) and it might just be enough for the Royals to take the series in seven games.