Neither the Blue Jays nor the Royals could probably line up their pitching for this ALCS as they would like after being extended in the ALDS, but Toronto looks hard to beat anyway.
After being forced to use front line starters in the last few days to close out their ALDS, the top twp records in the American League did prevail and it is the second seeded American League East Champion Toronto Blue Jays that turn up the favorites in the ALCS over the top seeded American League Central Champion Kansas City Royals, with Game 1 of this best four-of-seven series set for Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO Friday 8:05 ET on FOX Sports 1.
The posted series price at 5 Dimes has Toronto as a moderate favorite for this ALCS at current odds of -145.
Both ALDS Went Five Games
Both of these teams were extended to the maximum five games in their respective ALDS before being the winning MLB picks on Wednesday, which could make for an unexpected pitching matchup for Game 1 of the ALCS Friday of Marco Estrada vs. Edinson Volquez. The latter has already been named the starter while there is still a chance that David Price could start Game 1 for Toronto with three days off since pitching in relief on Monday.
That is correct, the biggest acquisition at the trading deadline that was brought in to be the ace of the Blue Jays staff entered in relief in the fifth inning of Game 4 vs. Texas, and with the Blue Jays holding a 7-1 lead no less behind R.A. Dickey. That may seem strange, but it also had to do with matchup as Price has had more trouble with the Texas Rangers’ lineup than with any other team in the American League.
The move also showed that Toronto had supreme confidence in Marcus Stroman to start Game 5, and indeed it looks like the young right-hander projected to be the Toronto ace before tearing his ACL during spring training has made a remarkably fast recovery while appearing to be at full strength. The Royals went the more conditional route of starting their top two starters in the last two games of their ALDS, but it reverse order with ace Johnny Cueto winning the finale.
Best Offense and Good Enough Starters
Now unquestionably, the Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball and it would take facing a team with very good pitching to deter Toronto’s path to the World Series. In that regard, the Blue Jays may have lucked out by facing the two lowest rated starting rotations of all the playoff teams in the first two rounds, first pounding the worst rotation in Texas and now having the chance to do the same vs. a Kansas City rotation that we personally rate as second worst.
Also, a healthy Stroman at least gives Toronto two reliable starters right now, whereas as Kansas City has nobody that we would consider a sure thing. We documented Price’s troubles vs. Texas as he has a career 5.15 against the Rangers, but he has been his more typical great self vs. the Royals with a 1.93 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over six career games against them. In other words, look for the “real” Price to show up for this series.
And with Stroman being out until making four starts late in the year (and going 4-0), it may be very easy to forget just how well he pitched as a rookie last year. Looking at his brief two-year career, Stroman is now 15-6 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 129 strikeouts vs. just 34 walks plus nine home runs allowed in 157.2 Major League innings.
We get that the rotation thins after that with the overachieving Estrada and the knuckleballer Dickey, who was probably not very happy to be pulled for Price before getting a chance to get the win with a six-run lead Monday. The good news for Dickey is that he projects to pitch at home in Game 4, and he went 9-3 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with a .197 batting average allowed at Rogers Center this year.
Better Bullpen But Will It Matter?
The most discernable edge that the Royals have in this series is the bullpen, but we can easily see the Blue Jays making that edge just about moot by teeing off on the mediocre Kansas City starters and building early leads before the bullpen can even get involved!
Cueto is the recognized ace of the staff as that was the reason why Kansas City traded for him at the deadline, and to his credit he stepped it up in the deciding Game 5 vs. the Astros with his best performance in a Royals’ uniform, allowing two runs on two hits in eight innings. But does that one great start erase the memory of going 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP for Kansas City during the season and then not pitching well in Game 2 vs. Houston?
Cueto will not pitch until Game 3 of this series, and we do not even think he will have the edge there facing Stroman in Toronto. The number two starter for Kansas City Yordano Ventura will actually pitch Game 2 of this series while the third starter Volquez will start Game 1, which is what happens many times when previous series get extended.
And neither of those starters really strike fear in the awesome Toronto bats. Ventura was supposed to be the ace at the beginning of the year, but while he went 13-8, it as with a 4.08 ERA and he often showed his immaturity by being very demonstrative on the field, often showing up his teammates. As for Volquez, he was a lot like Estrada for Toronto as his weak peripheral numbers did not support his 13-9 record and 3.55 ERA.
Perhaps most damaging of all for the Royals in this series is that, unlike the ALDS, they will almost certainly need to use a fourth starter and that man may be Kris Medlen, who has come nowhere near matching the brief success he had with the Atlanta Braves since coming to the American League.
You need pitching to stop the Blue Jays and the Royals simply do not have enough of it, at least not in the starting rotation. Granted, we are not too crazy about Toronto’s third and fourth starters after Price and Stroman, but at least Dickey gets to pitch Game 4 at home and he may go up against the Royals fourth starter, probably Medlen.
We will give the Royals one of the first two games in Kansas City with that being the game that Estrada starts, which just might be Game 1. However, we expect the Blue Jays to win every other game.
Blue Jays in 5
MLB Pick: Blue Jays -145 (series)