By: Joe Botana
Game five of the ALCS will feature two very different story lines. For Ned Yost and the Royals, it’s a relatively low pressure situation, as they seek to close out the series without even having to return home. For John Gibbons and the Jays, the stakes are much higher, and the situation far grimmer, as they must win the third game in Toronto to earn the right to beat the Royals 2-0 in Kansas City.
Edinson Volquez (13-9 / 3.55 ERA) will start his second game of the series for the Royals. The game one starter hurled a six inning two hit performance in the Kansas City victory. The Blue Jays’ will send Marco Estrada (13-8 / 3.13 ERA) to the mound as they seek to stave off elimination. Estrada did not pitch badly in the opener, giving up three runs in five plus innings, but got absolutely no run support from the usually prolific Toronto offense.
Toronto will look for a a strong pitching performance from its staff for the first time in this series. Over the first four games, they have surrendered 33 runs to the Royals, an average of 8.25 per game. One does not need to be a Sabermetrician to realize that such largesse won’t get it done, particularly against a strong playoff-caliber team like the Royals. Heck, it probably would not get it done in most slow-pitch softball bar leagues. Meanwhile, the team which scored 891 runs during the regular season, an average of 5.5 per game and 167 more than the Royals, has only managed to score four runs per game. The Royals have managed to turn the tables on the team which managed an incredible run differential of 221 in the regular season.
Kansas City clearly has the advantage in today’s game. They are coming off the momentum of an aggressive comeback attempt in game three, and a beat down of epic proportion in game four, to play game five with little pressure. They have significantly more playoff experience, and they realize that, even if they lose today, they go home needing to just win one of two games at Kauffmann Stadium. Toronto will hope they can repeat their amazing performance in the ALDS, where they came back from 0-2 to sweep the next three games and knock off the Texas Rangers. They also will count on a reversion to mean, knowing that it the Royals are unlikely to continue to play as much above their long term average, while they themselves are not likely to continue underperforming as badly as they have thus far in the ALCS.
The bell for the fifth, and possible final , round of this heavyweight prizefight will ring at 4 pm ET today, with the challenger staggered and on the ropes, and the defending champion looking to close it out.