This MLB handicapper explains in his free pick for Giants vs. Royals, that the teams that are the hottest in October are the ones which are matched up in the Fall Classic.
In the American League, long-gone are the LA Angels, who had the best record in baseball at 98-64, likewise, the Oakland A’s. The A’s were a team who with mid-season acquisitions to their pitching staff were expected to easily ascend to the World Series. Also gone are the Baltimore Orioles, whose 96-66 record made a mockery of the usually tight race in the AL East. These 3 superior teams were all dispatched by the American League representative in the World Series, the KC Royals. The Royals have been doing it with “small ball,” ideally suited for their home field, some surprising starting pitching, and a solid bullpen. Most impressively, however, has been their play in the late innings. A team who has not won the World Series since 1985 is 4-0 in one run games and has captured 4 games in extra innings. The result is an 8-0 romp through the playoffs and 9-game winning streak overall. That has culminated a shocking 2nd half of the season for the Royals. On July 22nd, KC was languishing in their usual sub .500 position with little hope of making the playoffs. Though the Royals failed to run down Detroit for the AL Central crown, this improbable contender has gone 49-23 since July 22nd.
Their opponent for the World Series is a far more experienced San Francisco team, who enters the World Series with the pedigree of capturing 2 of the previous 4 world titles. Much like their opponent today, they have arrived at this position via the Wild Card route. Their 88-74 regular season record was 6 games shy of the Dodgers for the divisional crown in the NL West. But, a Wild Card victory at Pittsburgh, a 3-1 series victory over Washington (the team with the best record in the National League), and capturing a 4-1 series against perennially championship contender, St. Louis, brings them to the World Series on an 8-2 playoff run with 3 consecutive victories.
Leading the charge from the mound has been San Francisco ace, Bumgarner. Entering the playoffs, San Francisco had won 6 consecutive starts by Bumgarner, in which he allowed just 9 runs on 33 hits in 41 IP with a 47/6 KBB. In a twist to his career, Bumgarner’s best work came on the road in the regular season. In 18 road starts, over 125 2/3 IP, Bumgarner twirled a 2.22 ERA with 0.98 WHIP. With the inception of the playoffs, Bumgarner mowed down the Pirates (8-0) in a road victory. The 4-1 loss at home to Washington was not a surprise, though he pitched a decent game. Bumgarner was again most impressive in a road start to begin the St. Louis series with a 3-0 win on the road. He capped off his impressive post-season with a 6-3 game clinching, home field victory, vs. the Cards.
His mound opponent today will be the workhorse ace of the KC staff, Shields. Shields was the workhorse of the staff in the early going of these playoffs. In fact, he pitched 3 of the Royals’ 1stfive playoff games. The results have been decent but not overwhelming. As in 2 of those 3 contests, the Royals have needed to be bailed out by late-game heroics to win the contest. As is the case in his career, Shields continues to pitch his best ball on the road. With 11 days between starts, it is also questionable whether he will find his rhythm early on.
Clearly it is not easy to fade a KC team, who has won 9 consecutive games to begin the playoffs. But, the inverted home road dichotomy that represents both the work of Bumgarner and Shields makes it clear to this handicapper that we will have a dominant edge on the mound in Game 1 with the San Francisco Giants and will make this our MLB pick at a sportsbook like YouWager.