Results tagged ‘ Royals ’

Baseball Returns With a Three-Game Slate

It’s been a little over five months since the last non-exhibition Major League Baseball game was played, but meaningful baseball is finally taking place again today (Opening Day, part one). After a month of Spring Training games, six of baseball’s thirty teams are scheduled to dual it out over the course of this afternoon and evening, with the remaining twenty-four squads playing their opening games on Monday.Opening Day

Game one of the regular season is set to kick off at 1:05, and sees the Cardinals taking on the Pirates in a National League Central battle. Francisco Liriano and Adam Wainwright are the scheduled starters for the contest, leaving little to doubt that it will be a great game. With the NL Central likely to be a very close race throughout the coming 162 games, it’s never been more important to get off to a good start against a division rival.

The second game on the docket for today is another divisional faceoff, as the Blue Jays are going up against their American League East counterpart Rays. While the Rays aren’t predicted to hold up against Toronto in the long run, anything can happen in the first game of the year. On the mound for Tampa is Chris Archer, with Marcus Stroman toeing the rubber for the Jays. It will likely be a fun one to watch, with this game beginning at 4:05 in the afternoon.

But while the previous two games are sure to be exciting and well worth watching, the one I’m going to be watching the closest and am looking forward to the most is the World Series rematch between the Mets and the Royals at 8:37. Game five of the Fall Classic way back on November 1st saw Matt Harvey starting for the Mets, with Edinson Volquez setting the tone for Kansas City, which just so happens to be the pitching matchup for tonight. For that reason, this should wind up being an unbelievable game.

As we all know, the Royals walked away World Series champions over the Mets in 2015, however, that was last season. It’s a new year, and with it comes new opportunities for each and every team around baseball. The road to the World Series starts with game one, and the first week always promises excitement from teams and individual players around baseball, as they all look to get off to hot starts.

Let the season begin.

American League Predictions for 2016

For the fifth season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I had the Red Sox placing first in 2015 and they finished last), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I’ll be posting my predictions for the National League in the next few days, but for now, I’m going to give my predictions for the American League (along with my reasoning), starting with the American League East:

EAST

1. Red Sox

2. Yankees

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Rays

For a team that has finished dead last each of the past two seasons, it’s hard to wrap my head around placing the Red Sox to win the Americna League East division in 2016, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Not everyone has them faring quite as well, but there are a number of factors that have me seeing great things from them this season. First of all, the addition of Craig Kimbrel to their bullpen — along with Carson Smith from the Mariners — to close out games for them will wind up being huge, in my mind. As far as their starters are concerned, placing David Price in the rotation automatically improves their chances of winning every fifth day, even though the rest of their rotation isn’t on Price’s level. The Red Sox don’t have an overly dominant pitching staff, but with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez looking to have bounceback seasons offensively in this being David Ortiz’s last season, I feel big things are ahead for Boston.

What the Yankees lack in offensive thump (besides Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez) they make up for in pitching. Their rotation and bullpen aren’t overwhelming at first glance, but they are a group of solid pitching workhorses who will post a ton of innings of good baseball all season long. With that in mind, I have the Yankees finishing second to the Red Sox, as they will likely be very competitive, but I can’t see them winning the whole division. Even so, with Masahiro Tanaka looking to have a fully healthy season, along with Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, combined with a bullpen of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and newly acquired Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees pitching will inevitably carry them when their offense isn’t clicking. They’re basically the opposite of the Red Sox. Bottom line: The Yankees are a team that shouldn’t be overlooked, as they look to make it back to the postseason this year.

The Blue Jays have a true dream-lineup, with Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista all providing major power threats at any point in the game. But they’re missing one thing that would lead me to placing them atop the division: a strong pitching staff. Yes, they have guys like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez who look to have big futures ahead, along with veteran R.A. Dickey, but I’m not fully on board with them placing any better than third in the division. If they can find a way to pitch well day in and day out, then there is no stopping the Blue Jays from dominating the division, but there are a lot of “what ifs” with their team. After making it to the postseason for the first time in over twenty years last season, it wouldn’t shock me at all if they make it back again in 2016. But on the flip side, it wouldn’t fully shock me if they don’t make it either.

If history has taught us anything it’s that predicting how any given season will pan out is impossible. However, history has also shown that it takes a good pitching staff to make it much of anywhere in the divisional races, and I don’t see a very deep rotation or bullpen for the Orioles. They have several solid starters, from Chris Tillman to Brian Matusz, as well as newcomer Yovani Gallardo who will help them out tremendously, and their bullpen has a couple of the best relievers in baseball, with Darren O’Day and Zach Britton. But I simply don’t see them as having enough to outplay the Blue Jays, Yankees or Red Sox. Their pitchers would have to be atop their game all season long, and their lineup would also have to perform on an equally high level. But with all of that said, with guys like Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Adam Jones, it’s not entirely impossible for them to have special year, I just don’t predict it.

Someone unfortunately has to finish last in every division around baseball no matter how good their team is, and I’m placing the Rays in that slot for 2016. Putting them last was extremely hard. I could make a strong case for them outplaying the Orioles, with even somewhat long shot cases of them placing in the top three. They have a team that makes anything possible. Their rotation is better than that of the Orioles and Blue Jays, in my opinion, with guys like Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb (once he returns) and Matt Moore, but I’m not convinced that their offense, other than Evan Longoria and a few others, will be consistent enough to take on the top teams in the division. If they can score runs, they can compete with anyone. It all comes down to execution. That’s what makes them just like the other four teams in the division who I could see coming in first or dead last. It’s truly going to be that close of a race in the division.

CENTRAL

1. Royals

2. Tigers

3. White Sox

4. Indians

5. Twins

This is another very difficult division to decide where to place each team, but I have the Royals winning the division once again. They aren’t a very flashy team, but they do a lot extremely well. In 2015, the Royals were the king of the comeback, constantly coming back from big deficits to win games that ultimately lead to them becoming World Series champions. I feel they will be able to do that again this season. One of the biggest stories of the offseason was Alex Gordon deciding to stay with the Royals, and I feel that him sticking around will help them exponentially. Combined with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, the Royals have a good enough lineup to post a nice amount of runs. What will help the Royals win their way to the division title, however, is their bullpen, with Wade Davis helping to lead the charge. If all goes right, winning the division should be fairly easy.

Not a lot of people believe in the Tigers for 2016, but upon looking at their roster, I don’t see a spot where they are weak. Over the past few seasons, their bullpen has been one of their worst spots, but they addressed that nicely with the pickup of Francisco Rodriguez who is a proven closer that can shut down games for them. Beyond that, their rotation got a bit better, as the pickup of under the radar starter Jordan Zimmermann, to go along with Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Daniel Norris, should help them win a lot of games. But while their pitching staff is strong, their roster is even stronger. Miguel Cabrera will put up Cabrera-like numbers, and if Victor Martinez can have a healthy year, along with J.D. Martinez and offseason pickup Justin Upton, Detroit appears to be in good shape. If absolutely everything goes right, the Tigers could win the division. But I’m leaving them finishing in a close second.

With Chris Sale leading the way as the Ace of the staff, along with Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana likely to have solid seasons, the White Sox appear to have a decent enough pitching rotation to win ball games in 2016. However, I don’t see it as being strong enough to overtake either the Tigers or Royals. Furthermore, I’m not fully convinced that their lineup is going to be all that spectacular either. They had one of the worst lineups in baseball last season, and while they picked up Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie this offseason, they can only help so much. Guys such as Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton will do their parts throughout the season, but I simply don’t see a way for the White Sox to finish any better than third place in the division. That’s a sharp contrast from some people around the baseball world who actually have the Sox winning the division this coming season, but I can’t place them that high in my mind.

If the Indians can get the fullest potential out of Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar this coming season, the sky is truly the limit for them. However, with that said, I’m not sure what to expect out of the Indians’ starters as a whole. Over the past few seasons, each of the aforementioned names have been dominant, but they have failed to be dominant at the same time, with a lot of inconsistency coming from them all. Additionally, although their lineup contains some big names, I simply don’t think that it will be enough to stack up against the other three teams above them on my list. Yes, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley, among others, are capable of carrying the Indians far in the season, but their overall makeup isn’t going to be consistent enough, in my opinion, to make the coming season that special of a year for the Indians.

The Minnesota Twins shocked the baseball world last season when they finished in second place in the division. But I see a drastic fall back for them in the coming year. If their rotation was stronger, I could see another good year. However, with Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes being historically inconsistent over their careers, their pitching isn’t exactly their strong suit. Where the Twins thrive is their lineup, which contains a ton of power. Miguel Sano burst onto the scene last year and was absolutely tremendous right out of the gate, with fellow sluggers Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia likely to be the key power sources of their roster. If they can get those guys going, along with Byron Buxton, who was somewhat of a disappointment upon his debut last season, then the Twins very well may prove me wrong and climb their way up the rankings. I just have a hard time seeing a scenario where that happens.

WEST

1. Astros

2. Angels

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

5. Athletics

After several years in a row of finishing the season with greater than 100 losses on the year, the Astros have finally been heading in the right direction in recent history, with them actually making the playoffs in 2015. With a starting rotation that includes 2015 Cy Young award winner, Dallas Keuchel, along with youngster Lance McCullers and newcomer Doug Fister, I really like Houston’s starters heading into the year. And their bullpen is even better. Picking up Ken Giles from the Phillies in a trade to join Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson in the bullpen, the Astros look ready to mow down opposing teams all season long. On the flip side, they also appear loaded in their lineup. While they lost slugger Chris Carter, they still have reigning Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa who looks headed for superstardom, along with Jose Altuve, Carlos Gomez and George Springer. All things together, the division title is the Astros’ to lose.

The Angels’ lineup is certainly a great mix of both veterans and young, talented players, and I think they will all come together to truly shock some people in 2016. Despite that, I don’t see them taking out the Astros for top spot in the division. Albert Pujols had a solid year last season, and Mike Trout is seemingly getting better and better as each year passes. Look for both of them to power the team towards a lot of wins, along with some help from guys such as Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron and offseason pickup Andrelton Simmons. But while I feel their offense will be okay at best, I predict their pitching to be superb in 2016. Getting a healthy Garrett Richards for this season, with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Andrew Heaney all looking to have a bounce back or breakout season, I don’t feel that any of the other three teams below the Angels on my list will be able to challenge them for the full 162-game season.

Third in my divisional standings predictions for the American League West are the Rangers, however, they could easily overtake the Angels if they don’t perform the way I’m expecting them to. For that reason alone, the Rangers are a team to watch very carefully in 2016. Although their lineup is going to be fairly good, with Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder all ready to mash in the coming year, there are too many questions with the remainder of their roster for me to extremely believe in them. Furthermore, the question marks extend beyond their lineup. They lost Yovani Gallardo to the Orioles this offseason, and although they have proven themselves in the past, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish performing at the top of their game after injuries is yet to be seen. Even so, the Rangers should be a very good ball club that may wind up just short when all is said and done.

When I look at the Mariners’ rotation heading into this season, I see a ton of talent but also a ton of question marks, much as I did with the Rangers’ lineup. Beyond Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, who will both be great all year long, Seattle’s rotation isn’t really proven enough for me to think without a doubt that they are headed for big things this year. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have a ton of potential, and have shown flashes of greatness before, but they have been too inconsistent to have an idea of what to expect from them in 2016. Beyond their pitching, the Mariners also leave a lot to be desired in their overall lineup, as other than players such as Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, I don’t see a lot of pop in their everyday 1-9. For all of those reasons, I feel that it is going to turn out to be another disappointing season in Seattle.

Finally on my list of picks in the American League divisional races in 2016, I have the Athletics finishing at a dismal last place in the west. While the pickup of Fernando Rodney will go a long way in further improving their already decent bullpen, their starting rotation begins and ends with Sonny Gray, who I see as having another Cy Young conversation season. With the unfortunate loss of Jarrod Parker due to another arm injury, I don’t see a lot of options for their rotation that will be overpowering. More of the same holds true for the offensive side of their roster. To me, although they have a few impact bats such as Billy Butler and Josh Reddick, along with 2015 breakouts Stephen Vogt and Billy Burns, they simply don’t have good enough pitching or hitting for them to perform at a competitive level in the division they are in. Ever since losing Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, the A’s just haven’t been the same.

Q and A With Ryan O’Hearn

Ryan O’Hearn was drafted by the Royals in the 8th round of the 2014 draft, after batting .292 with eight home runs and 44 RBI’s in his final season at Sam Houston State College.

RoyalsSince the draft, O’Hearn has seen his power numbers explode in a big way. In O’Hearn’s very first professional game in 2014 with the Idaho Fall Chukars, he went 5-5, including a home run in his very first at-bat on his way to winning MVP honors with the Pioneer League, with a .361 average to go along with 13 homers and 54 RBI’s in 64 games.

In his most recent 2015 season, O’Hearn saw a substantial drop in his batting average, but still managed a decent .263 on the year between two levels. What stands out the most, however, is O’Hearn’s continued power surge, hitting 27 blasts over the course of the year.

Many question whether or not O’Hearn’s amazing power increase can be sustained as he climbs the levels of the Royals’ minor league system, but I see no reason to believe it won’t be able to be replicated in 2016 and beyond. If O’Hearn can keep posting the same type of numbers, it’s only a matter of time before he’s making an impact at Kauffman Stadium for the Royals.

Ryan O’Hearn — top prospect in the Royals’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I have been interested in baseball as long as I can remember — from little league all the way up, it’s been constant. My older brother played, so I remember going to all of his games in high school, and my dad loves baseball, so we were always at a baseball field. My dad was definitely the biggest influence growing up. He gave me every opportunity to play and be around the game.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite baseball player growing up was Josh Hamilton. I always loved watching him hit, and wanted to hit like him! Also, his story is pretty amazing. It shows how faith can get you through anything.

3.) You were drafted by the Royals in the 8th round of the 2014 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft process is unlike anything else; everything you’ve worked for and dreamed about your whole life comes down to one moment. For me, getting drafted was as motivating as it was exciting. For one, the 8th round isn’t where I wanted to be, and just getting drafted isn’t the goal. So when I got picked, I just thanked God and the people who helped me along the way, and I took it as an incredible opportunity. I was at my house with my family. It was definitely an amazing day and moment that I will never forget.

4.) After hitting a combined 11 home runs in your three seasons at college, you’ve topped that number in each of your first two pro seasons, hitting 13 in 2014 and 27 in 2015. What changes (if any) have you made to your game that you attribute to the power increase you’ve seen?

My homerun numbers in college have a lot to do with the ballpark that I played in. Also, I played in the worst time for homeruns in college baseball. Both the new bats and raised seam baseballs didn’t help — at least all that is what I tell myself [laughs]. With that being said, I just really think I matured physically and just kind of figured it out in short season. That was a time that I really gained a lot of confidence in myself as a player and learned a lot about myself. When I was drafted, the Royals director of scouting, Lonnie Goldberg, just told me to be myself and let it fly. They gave me the freedom to really just get after it and develop as a player.

5.) On the topic of power hitting, you won the 2015 South Atlantic League home run derby during their All-Star festivities. Did you approach the derby with any different of a swing than you do in an at-bat during the season? After the derby, did you notice a negative change in your swing that many big league home run derby participants complain about?

The home run derby was a lot of fun. I had never been in one before. During batting practice every day, I usually turn it loose and hit homeruns in my last round, so I didn’t really change my swing at all. I think the trick is to not get too pull happy so you can create backspin. For me, it didn’t have any effect on my swing after at all. It was just a fun event that I was fortunate enough to win.

6.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Life on the road is probably the biggest adjustment going from college to professional baseball. It’s not easy getting used to overnight bus rides and living out of a suitcase. There’s no doubt that the minor league baseball season is a grind. It’s not glamorous, and getting through those long road trips will test you. For me, bus rides are a good time to read my bible, listen to music and sleep as much as possible.

7.) You made it to the Mills Cup finals as part of the Carolina League playoffs with the Wilmington Blue Rocks this past season. Although you ultimately didn’t pull out a championship, how would you describe the overall playoff experience?

Playing in the playoffs is an awesome experience, and I think it really helps to develop you as a player. The playoffs aren’t easy to come by; many players and coaches never get to experience that. Also, that helps prepare you to play in the postseason in the big leagues, which is really why you play the game in the first place!

8.) What do you feel went well in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?

I think that there were positives and negatives for me in 2015. Obviously, as a first baseman RBI’s and homeruns are very important. So as far as that goes, I’m pretty happy with that. Now, with that being said, there is always room for improvement! I think that I am just now starting to really figure out my swing and learning how to be a good hitter. Defensively, I want to be an asset on defense, and continue to get better in that area as well. I just hope that in 2016 I can continue to grow as a player and consistently get better.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I don’t watch much T.V. outside of sports, but I did watch the show ‘Workaholics’ on Comedy Central a lot in college. As for food, I love steak. That’s always been my favorite food!

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would just say to them that there is no easy path to accomplish your dreams, not everything is going to go how you plan it. There will be coaches, scouts, and people along the way that don’t believe in you, and you can’t let that discourage you. Also, there will be people along the way that will help you. Rely on them and learn as much as you can from coaches and other people who have been there before. Nobody gets to play this game forever; never take a day on the baseball field for granted. Remember that being able to play baseball is a gift; this game will give you a platform the higher up in it that you go. Use it to give all the glory to God. I think that’s really why we’re here, and we get to enjoy the game of baseball along the way.

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Big thanks to Ryan O’Hearn for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Rohearn11

Royals Win 2015 World Series in Five

After losing games one and two of the World Series started by Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, respectively, the Mets had reason for concern heading into game three of the World Series on Friday night. But as I stated at the end of my previous post, they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound for the game, and with him having been great all season long, they still had reason to hold out hope of a series comeback. They simply had to score enough runs to beat out the Royals and Yordano Ventura, who was sure to be equally terrific.Syndergaard

But it appeared to be more of the same for the Mets when the game started. An Eric Hosmer RBI-groundout in the very first inning struck a blow to the Mets before they even had a chance to swing the bats. But the Mets wasted no time in answering back. In the bottom half of the same inning, David Wright blasted a two-run homer to give the Mets a 2-1 lead early on, and provided some needed positivity to the club.

However, the Mets didn’t hold the lead for long. In the top of the second, an RBI-single by Alex Rios and a passed ball by Syndergaard with a man on third gave the Royals a one run lead once again. Even so, Syndergaard helped his own cause by getting a leadoff single in the third inning — the youngest pitcher with a World Series hit since Dwight Gooden in 1986 — which he was well rewarded for. The very next batter, Curtis Granderson, hit a line-drive homer that cleared the right field wall by just a few feet, making the score 4-3, Mets.

From the second inning on, Syndergaard lived up to his nickname of “Thor”. He was magnificent, retiring ten straight at one point. The Mets also helped him out, scoring another run in the bottom of the fourth, coming via a Michael Conforto ground ball to first base that lead to confusion between the second baseman, Ben Zobrtist, and Eric Hosmer. MondesiUltimately, Conforto chugged his way safely to first, and the run scored without a play.

A little history was made in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Raul Mondesi Jr. made his major league debut against Syndergaard. Although he struck out, Mondesi became the first player in the entire history of Major League Baseball to make his big league debut during the Fall Classic. That’s certainly impressive.

Also impressive was the Mets’ resurgence of a run-scoring machine. While the Royals didn’t score again after the second, the Mets posted another four runs in the sixth inning, coming from contributions from Juan Uribe, David Wright (who had four RBI’s on the game) and Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets held a 9-3 lead when the inning concluded, and that’s where things would wind up as the final score.

With game four now being a game in which the Mets were simply looking to tie things up and not worrying about being eliminated, you had to figure they could be a bit more relaxed and therefore able to perform much as they did in game three. It was sure to be a fun game.

Steven Matz — the second rookie on the mound for the Mets in back-to-back games — was on the mound in game four, opposed by the Royals’ Chris Young. Matz and Young are two completely different kind of pitchers, so it was fun to watch how each went about trying to get the other team out.Matz

Early on for the Mets’ side of things, it was a rookie show. Steven Matz lead off with a couple of scoreless innings, and Michael Conforto kicked off the third inning with a homer (the youngest players since Miguel Cabrera in 2003 to hit a World Series homer) off of Chris Young, who had been equally good to that point in the game. Wilmer Flores followed up with a fall-in single, and later advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a terrific sacrifice bunt by Matz. Then, the unbelievable happened.

Curtis Granderson lifted a fly ball into right field which was easily caught by Alex Rios. But Rios forgot how many outs there were, and took a step or two towards the infield before realizing it was only the second out of the inning. Although it was going to be a close play anyhow, it took away any shot at nailing Flores at the plate. That simply can’t happen — not in the World Series. But it did, giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.

The Royals would answer back in the fifth, scoring a single run via an Alex Gordon RBI-single. But despite that run, Matz was still able to pitch well to get out of the inning. His opposer, Chris Young, was removed after the fourth inning, and replaced by Danny Duffy. But Duffy promptly allowed yet another home run to Conforto, who became the only Mets player other than Gary Carter to hit two homers in a Fall Classic game. Things were looking good for the Mets.

Ben Zobrist lead off the sixth inning with his eighth double of the postseason, getting things started against Matz, who many people were shocked was still in the game. As a result, the next batter, Lorenzo Cain, knocked a ball up the Murphymiddle that scored Zobrist and made it a 3-2 game with no outs. Matz was promptly removed, replaced by Jonathan Niese, and the potential further damage was contained.

That is, until the eighth inning, when the Royals took the lead an never looked back. Daniel Murphy committed an untimely error on an Eric Hosmer ground ball, which allowed Ben Zobrist to score. Singles by Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez plated two more and put Kansas City up by two runs, 5-3, which is where the game concluded after a failed attempt at a comeback for the Mets.

This isn’t the way many baseball fans envisioned things going at all. The Royals are a good team, but to win games going up against Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz is absolutely amazing. Sitting one win away from a World Series title, you knew they were sure to be on their game in Sunday’s game five potential elimination game. But going up against Harvey yet again, you had to figure it was going to be a challenge.

While the story of the game on Sunday was predicted to be Matt Harvey either keeping the Mets alive or not, it began with Curtis Granderson. As the first batter of the game, Granderson hit a homer off of Edinson Volquez to give the Mets a 1-0 lead and an extremely early spark.

Harvey struck out the side in the fourth — the second Mets pitcher (Tom Seaver being the other) to strike out the side in order in a World Series game — and was looking completely locked in, and much more like the All-Star version of HarveyHarvey that baseball fans had come to know, going on to strike out eight through the first five. Even so, despite the flaw in the first, Volquez was just as good to lead things off. With both pitchers totally dialed it, you had to figure that this was going to be one of the best games thus far.

The score remained the same through the sixth inning, when Curtis Granderson, David Wright and Daniel Murphy all lead off the inning with a walk, hit and error, respectively. The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, looked to cash in with the bases loaded and nobody out, but he fouled an 0-1 pitch off of his left kneecap, and appeared to be headed for the clubhouse. But he stayed in the ballgame, only to pop out before limping off the field. Following Cespedes was Lucas Duda, who came through with a sac fly that plated Granderson to increase the lead to 2-0.

That’s where things would stay through the top of the ninth inning, when the Mets were faced with a huge decision: leave Harvey in after 102 pitches, or bring in the closer, Jeurys Familia, who had blown two saves through this point in the World Series, in game one and game four. After all, if Familia had closed out those games, the Mets would have been sitting three outs away from a World Championship. You simply had to leave Harvey in to finish what he started.

And the Mets did just that. After declaring that there was “no way I’m leaving this game” to manager Terry Collins, Harvey took the hill looking to shut things down in the final inning. However, he appeared a bit too amped up to start with, walking the leadoff man, Lorenzo Cain, and overthrowing some of his pitches. Cain proceeded to steal second, and was knocked in by an RBI-double from Eric Hosmer. Harvey was promptly removed, but no matter what, it was the right call under the situation.

HosmerNonetheless, the Royals, who hold the playoff record for six postseason multi-run comebacks, were now just a well placed hit away from tying the game. Familia was brought in to be the potential hero of game five, which would ultimately make up for his previous subpar pitching. But he wouldn’t complete the game. An errant throw by Lucas Duda to home plate after a groundout by Salvador Perez allowed Hosmer to tie the game at 2-2, and made for Familia’s third blown save of the Fall Classic — the most in baseball history.

The score remained tied through the twelfth, when everything completely fell apart for the Mets. What began as a simple RBI-pinch-hit-single from Christian Colon, putting the Royals up a mere run, turned into a blowout. Christian Colon would eventually score, along with three more runs via a Lorenzo Cain double that scored three runs with the bases loaded.

With the Mets down 7-2 heading into the bottom of the twelfth, you had to figure they stood little chance of a comeback, especially facing the hard throwing Wade Davis. Ultimately, Davis would strike out three, putting an exclamation point on the Royals’ season, and making them 2015 World Series Champions.

World Series

My hat certainly goes off to the Royals. I, admittedly, was pulling for the Mets to win, simply because I’m a big Matt Harvey fan and because I wanted to see the season be continued a couple more games out in Kansas City. But you got the feeling back when the Royals rallied to win and advance against the Astros in the ALDS that this was a team that wouldn’t stop until they were declared World Champions as quickly as possible.

This is the Royals’ first World Series crown since back in 1985. After making it to game seven of the Fall Classic in 2014, only to lose to the Giants, this is obvious redemption for that year. Salvador Perez, for his many contributions on multiple levels, was named MVP of the series, which was completely deserved. He was a big part of what made this Royals team so magical.

Heading forward, offseason transactions will ultimately happen. This Royals club that won the World Series will inevitably not be the exact team that takes the field on Opening Day in 2016. But there’s one thing you can guarantee: the Royals will still have a very competitive team with all sights on returning to the World Series next season and beyond.

Royals Up Two Games Heading to New York City

The World Series is always an exciting time of the year for any baseball fan, no matter who you’re rooting for. With both teams having fought all season long, neither wants to give an inch in their quest for the title, and players from both sides usually step up in a big way for their respective teams. With that said, I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted such a game as the one that took place on Tuesday night.Escobar

Matt Harvey received the start for the Mets, going up against the Royals’ Edison Volquez. Although you had to figure Harvey would be on top of his game, things didn’t start off that well for him. On the very first pitch of the game, Alcides Escobar drove a ball deep into the outfield, which Yoenis Cespedes was unsuccessful in tracking down. When all was said and done, Escobar had score with the twelfth inside the park homer in World Series history, and the first since 1929. Just like that, it was 1-0, Royals.

Neither team would score again until the fourth inning, as Volquez was able to match Harvey pitch for pitch to begin the game. But an RBI-single in the fourth by Travis d’Arnaud, followed by a Curtis Granderson homer in the fifth and a sacrifice fly by Michael Conforto in the sixth, made it a 3-1 Mets lead. It appeared they were starting to put the game away, especially with Harvey on the hill.

But just as quickly as they took the two-run lead, they lost it in the very next set of swings for the Royals. In the bottom of the sixth, a couple of timely hits tied the game up at three apiece and made it a new ballgame. Even so, the Mets were able to take the late lead in the eighth on a fielding error, putting them up by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth.

GordonHowever, as history has shown, nothing is over until it’s over in the World Series. With one out in the bottom of the ninth against the Mets’ Jeurys Familia, Alex Gordon blasted a solo shot into deep center field to send the game to extra innings.

Due to outstanding relief work by both squads, the game would remain tied all the way until the fourteenth inning, when the Royals ultimately won with an Eric Hosmer sac fly that brought home the go ahead run to put the Royals up 1-0 in the seven game series.

After the longest game one in World Series history, you got the feeling that the entire Fall Classic would turn out to be much of the same.

The five hour and nine minute game one gave fans tons of excitement, as the back and forth lead changing between the two clubs made for a thrilling ballgame. With Jacob deGrom set to go against Johnny Cueto the very next game, things were sure to heat up in game two.

But while the expectation was a pitching duel for the second game of the World Series, it was Johnny Cueto stealing the show. With deGrom not being able to throw the ball past people the way he has in his previous starts, he struggled in this game overall, but Cueto settled in and really impressed a lot of people.deGrom

Although Cueto allowed the game’s first run in the fourth inning, coming from a contribution from Lucas Duda — he had been performing poorly throughout the playoffs until that point — Cueto really pitched well. Cueto wouldn’t allow another run in the game.

Jacob deGrom looked decent to start the game, but the wheels completely fell off in the fifth inning. RBI-singles from Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer (two RBI’s) and Mike Moustakas put the Royals up 4-1, and really gave them momentum with Cueto pitching the way he was (a complete game two-hitter). In the end, the Mets couldn’t mount a comeback and fell down two games to none in the series.

With the Royals up two games heading into game three in New York City on Friday, the Mets certainly have their backs against the wall. However, despite their poor odds, with Noah Syndergaard ready to pitch in game three and Steven Matz on the mound the next night, if the Mets can win at least one of those games, everything changes. Forcing at least a game five, the Mets would once again get Matt Harvey, then Jacob deGrom if they can extend it. Anything can happen after that.

This World Series is far from over.

Royals — Mets: World Series Predictions

I love making predictions. I’m absolutely no good at it (I picked the Blue Jays and Dodgers to be in the World Series), but I enjoy the process that goes into it, nonetheless. With that said, it is really difficult to predict a winner between the Mets and Royals for who I feel will win the 2015 World Series. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but in the end it’ll come down to which players can come through most in big spots, and that has proven time and time again to be unpredictable.

World Series

No matter what, with the Mets having not won a World Series since Bill Buckner’s infamous error in 1986, and the Royals experiencing a drought since 1985, history is guaranteed to be made for one of them sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The Mets have announced that their starting rotation is going to be Matt Harvey pitching game one, followed by Jacob deGrom (game two), Noah Syndergaard (game three) and Steven Matz (game four). Obviously, if the series goes beyond a fourth game (something that’s pretty sure to happen) then the rotation would simply begin again, with Harvey, deGrom, etc.

On the other side of the coin, the Royals haven’t yet announced their official starting rotation. There’s a lot of speculation as to whether Yordano Ventura or Edinson Volquez will get the ball in game one, with the other getting it for game two. It is also unknown whether game three would go to Chris Young or Johnny Cueto. With so much uncertainty, it’s difficult to try to predict games by looking at pitcher-pitcher matchups.

Even so, I feel like no matter who is going up against Matt Harvey, game one is likely to go to the Mets. Harvey has been great so far this postseason, and will likely even take things up a notch with it being the World Series. Going into game two, as with Harvey, anyone who matches up against deGrom is likely going to have a tough time. Although the Royals admittedly stand a better chance against deGrom than Harvey, I think the series will head back to New York for game three with the Mets up two games to zero.

Game three is where I see things turning a bit. Syndergaard has been great and is an unbelievable pitcher, but I think the Royals will get to him and win by a run or two. I see the same happening on the next night against Steven Matz. Another rookie, Matz has had a good year, but I feel the Royals will be able to tie things up at two games apiece.

I think the Mets will take the final game before heading back to Kansas City, as Harvey will be on the mound again. If they in fact have lost their first two games at home, I don’t see them allowing themselves to get swept the full three games.

Back at Kauffman Stadium, I predict the Mets will waste no time in taking the championship. Having Jacob deGrom on the mound is always a good thing, and he will inevitably pitch a good enough game to win the New York Mets the 2015 World Series.

But that’s all purely speculation, and just the way I see things unfolding. Whether or not the Mets win the Fall Classic is yet to be seen. But one thing is for sure: neither team will go down without a fight.

Evaluating My Postseason “Predictions” Two Weeks In

If you’re anything like me, your postseason predictions are likely already blown apart.

At this point, of the four teams still remaining, I only picked two of them correctly. With the Royals taking on the Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series, I successfully selected them to match up, but failed with my prediction of the Cardinals and Dodgers squaring off in the National League Division Series (it’s the Mets and CubsPostseason instead).

With no correct picks from the National League side at this point, there’s obviously no chance at having correctly picked the World Series matchup as I did in 2014.

It’s going to be the Cubs or Mets taking on the Royals or Blue Jays. However, it seems like it’ll be a Mets-Royals World Series, unlike the way I foresaw things with the Blue Jays and Dodgers in the Fall Classic.

Even so, it’s sure to be an exciting World Series. If it does in fact end up being the Mets and Royals, there are sure to be some terrific matchups. The Mets are better on paper, especially with their pitching staff, but Kansas City plays its own version of good baseball, and they could wind up doing the one thing they fell one win shy of in 2014: winning the World Series.

My 2015 Postseason Predictions

For the fourth straight season, I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the fourth straight season I was extremely far off. For one reason or another, I’m not very good at making division predictions before a given season begins.

This year, though, I hope to finally correctly predict how the postseason will play out. While I’ll likely be off, either by a little or a lot, it’s always fun to make predictions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a perfect prediction of how the postseason will play out. You never can tell what may happen in October.

WILD CARD GAMES (AL October 6th & NL October 7th)

American League: Yankees Vs. Astros

Winner: Yankees

It’s somewhat difficult to pick a winner of this matchup. Neither one of these teams were locks to make the playoffs at all when the season began, and yet here they are. I would have to say that the Astros’ lineup has more thump in it than the Yankees by a bit, but when it comes down to it, I think the bullpen will decide this game. With Masahiro Tanaka going up against Dallas Keuchel, the relievers could very well be the ultimate factor. With that said, I think the Yankees will be able to hold off the Astros and advance to the next round.

National League: Pirates Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

This is another tough one to call. With it being just one game, and with Jake Arrieta going up against Gerrit Cole, you can basically flip a coin to pick which team is more likely to win. Overall, though, I think that the Cubs will have the added motivation of trying to break the century long World Series drought that will help them prevail. Even so, this is sure to be one of the best games of the entire playoffs when all is said and done. Both teams have great lineups, and each has the ability to make this an unforgettable game.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 8th)

Blue Jays Vs. Rangers

Winner: Blue Jays

The Rangers have a good pitching staff as well as a good lineup, but they are quite simply no match for the Blue Jays in my mind. I could easily see this being a three-game sweep by the Blue Jays if Toronto’s pitchers can pitch well. Their roster, consisting of unbelievable power throughout the lineup, is more than enough to dominate the Rangers. Although the Rangers made an impressive run to even make it into the playoffs, their run will likely end in the first true round of the 2015 postseason.

Royals Vs. Yankees

Winner: Royals

After making it all the way to the World Series in 2014 — they lost to the Giants in game seven — I think the Royals will easily overtake the Yankees. The Royals have a strong team in every single aspect. From their pitching staff to their bullpen to their extremely diverse lineup, the Royals are a very formidable club. Although I’m not sure they will make it to the World Series as they did in 2014, I think they will have no problem overtaking the Yankees, despite the Yankees being a good team as well.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 9th)

Dodgers Vs. Mets

Winner: Dodgers

This is going to be a series for the ages. The Dodgers have one of the best one-two pitching staff punches in baseball history, with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and their offense is one that can score a lot of runs. Likewise, the Mets have a deep pitching staff that starts with phenom Matt Harvey, and they can score runs with the best of them as well. I could see this series going down to a game five, with the team that scores first being the team that holds on to advance to the Championship series.

Cardinals Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cardinals

Unfortunately, this is where I see the Cubs’ hopes for a 2015 World Championship coming to an end. They are a good team, as I previously stated, but I don’t think they can withstand the team with the best record from the regular season. The Cardinals are a great team, and they know how to win. I think they will continue their winning ways and push on to the next round of the playoffs. Despite that, it should be fun to watch the Cubs put up a fight to take out the Cardinals. If absolutely everything goes perfect, they could do it, but I just don’t see that happening.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 16th)

Blue Jays Vs. Royals

Winner: Blue Jays

What a series this would be. Both teams are dynamic, and both teams are very talented. However, both teams can’t win. With that said, I think it will be back and forth series in every sense of the word. I think this series will take six or seven games to decide, and it will be extremely exciting to watch. In the end, however, the Jays have an extremely good team, and I see them knocking the Royals out of contention. Although the Blue Jays haven’t been to the World Series since 1993, I have them making it there this year.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 17th)

Cardinals Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Dodgers

Another sure to be great series against two great teams, this is yet again a nearly impossible matchup to predict (as many of them are). It could honestly go either way, depending on an exponential number of factors. It will all come down to who is hot at the right times and which team comes up with the clutch hits. But if Kershaw can hold up against the Cardinals (something history has shown he’s had a difficulty doing), I would bet my money on the Dodgers. They have the ability to make it into the World Series.

WORLD SERIES (Begins October 27th)

Blue Jays Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Dodgers

If the Blue Jays can’t score runs they can’t win games. That’s the logic I’m using for trying to predict the World Series. Going up against the Dodgers’ unbelievable pitching staff, it may be difficult for Toronto to come out on top. The Blue Jays’ strength is undoubtedly their power bats, which the Dodgers don’t have as much of. But the Dodgers have more than their share of good pitching, which is what usually has the edge. When all is said and done, and the season has completely come to an end, I see the Dodgers as the only team remaining, as World Series Champions.

Leave a comment with who you have winning the World Series. I’d love to hear your picks.

Excitement Building With First Place Races

From one year to the next, you never truly know what to expect in any given division race around baseball. Sometimes one team will completely blow away the rest of the teams in their division and run away with the first place spot, while other cases see multiple teams within a few games of each other down to the last game of the season. This year is more of the latter.

Of the six divisions, four of them have the second place team within three games of the first place squad (the Royals and Cardinals lead their divisions by a good margin). Furthermore, some of the teams closing in on first — or in some cases leading the division — haven’t been doing so well in quite a long time. Astros

The biggest example of that being the Astros and Mets. Each are leading their given divisions at the current moment, and each are making their push towards the playoffs years earlier than many people thought they would.

With the Angels a mere one game back of the Astros and the Nationals a game and a half removed from the Mets, the remaining games of the season should be exciting as we find out which teams can hold on to their hot seasons.

Although not in first place (at least not yet), the Blue Jays are another team that is making things very interesting in the race for first place. The Yankees, somewhat surprisingly, lead the American League East at the moment, but the surging Jays are right on their tail, at just one and a half games back. With the lineup they have, Toronto has the ability to overthrow the Yankees as the season progresses.

The Dodgers are also in the mix as far as exciting division races are concerned, despite still holding a two and a half game lead over the Giants for first. Even so, the Dodgers have been in somewhat of a slump lately (as have the Giants) and things could quickly switch around in the NL West.

No matter what happens over the coming several weeks as teams push towards October, the fact that so many teams that weren’t expected to make the playoffs in 2015 are currently on their way to doing just that is exciting. If the season ended today, the Yankees, Royals, Astros, Blue Jays, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Cubs would all be headed to the postseason.

With the Astros not having made the playoffs since 2005, the Mets since 2006, Cubs since 2008 and the Blue Jays since way back in 1993, this could turn out to be the season a lot of droughts could be broken for a lot of teams. That’s worth looking forward to.

Cueto Traded to Royals On Hall of Fame Sunday

In what was supposed to be a baseball day focused solely on the Hall of Fame inductions up in Cooperstown, New York, another news story broke that stole a little bit of the thunder.Cueto

Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds’ ace starting pitcher, was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for cash and Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed. Although the move of Cueto was inevitable, it still came as somewhat of a shock to a lot of people.

Cueto has gone 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 19 starts this season so far, and holds a career mark of a 3.21 ERA. With a line such as that, a lot of people feel that Cueto can give the Royals a legitimate shot at a World Series title.

Without Cueto, the Royals have gone 58-38, holding a 6.5 game lead over the second place Twins in the division. Now that Cueto has joined the Royals rotation, he very well could be what’s needed to push them over the top.

But while Cueto stirred up what has so far been an uneventful time leading up to the trade deadline, there was also the aforementioned Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz all received induction as part of the 2015 class, joining the 306 other members inducted before them. All gave memorable speeches, and will now be forever remembered for their amazing careers.

Only time will tell who the class of 2016 will turn out to be.