By Stephen Elliott
The Wild Card winning Houston Astros face the Kansas City Royals, last year’s American League champions. Both teams struggled toward the end of the season (though the Royals had a comfortable lead in the AL Central). The Royals look to start defending their World Series appearance from last year, while the young Astros aim to spoil and continue an impressive season.
Keys for each team to win
Houston’s win over the New York Yankees in the Wild Card game demonstrated their key to winning games: keep the other team’s hitters off balance and hit home runs. While they will be able to bash some homer runs in Houston it will be difficult to hit them out in Kauffman Stadium. Jose Altuve’s and Carlos Correa’s abilities to work the gaps in a large ballpark and turn doubles into triples will have to be on display for the Astros to win games.
Other players besides Keuchel have to step up. Houston’s loss of the AL West division was in large part due to the bullpen struggles. In each of Scott Kazmir’s (starting Game 2) last three starts, he did not make it through five innings. Houston won’t win going to the bullpen early and often.
Kansas City lost their closer Greg Holland for the season adding a slight knock at their superb backend of the bullpen. Wade Davis fills in as the new closer posting 17 saves and an earned run average of 0.94. Losing Holland won’t break the Royals but may be the difference in winning and losing the AL.
The Royals hitters lost some of its thump in September. A lot of their games lost were due to not being able to score runs. Last year, they had the same problem going into the postseason and they went on to become the American League champs.
Prediction: Royals win in four
The Royals are too talented, too highly coached and too experienced to lose to the young Astros team. Bullpens win games and series and the Royals have one of, if not the best, bullpen in the league. The Astros will have to find other ways to score runs other than hit home runs in Kansas City and their record when hitting less than two home runs per game is 29-64, according to ROOT Sports.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times CT
* If necessary
|THU., OCT. 8
|Houston at Kansas City, 6:37 p.m.
|FRI., OCT. 9
|Houston at Kansas City, 2:45 p.m.
|SUN., OCT. 11
|Kansas City at Houston, 3:10 p.m.
|MON., OCT. 12
|*Kansas City at Houston, TBD
|FOX, FS1 or MLBN
|WED., OCT. 14
|*Houston at Kansas City, TBD
|FOX, FS1 or MLBN