One day of rest is all the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals will get before they square off in the 2015 American League Championship Series, starting with Friday’s Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium.
A little extra time off after wild, full five-game series would be ideal for both clubs, but the short rest might allow their momentum to carry into the next round of the postseason.
The Blue Jays are especially hot and considered a 6/5 favorite to win the series and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1993, according to OddsChecker.com. Kansas City’s listed at 16/11 to repeat as AL champions for the first time in franchise history.
The Royals completed their comeback from a 2-1 series hole against the Houston Astros Thursday night, capped by starter Johnny Cueto’s scintillating eight-inning gem and a lineup that finally woke up in Game 5. Kansas City scored 10 combined runs in the final two innings of Games 4 and 5, thanks to timely hitting from first baseman Eric Hosmer, and catcher Salvador Perez and designated hitter Kendrys Morales combining for five home runs and 10 RBI throughout the series.
At times struggling against Houston’s one-two starting combo of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, the Royals instead attacked the Astros bullpen but next draw a Toronto relief staff that posted a 2.37 ERA with 18 strikeouts over five games.
The Royals can counter with a 3.12 ERA staff working 17 1/3 innings of relief and allowing six total earned runs, but closer Wade Davis hasn’t let up a single run in the last three innings off just 32 pitches.
The Blue Jays experienced every bit of drama and controversy a team could have in any series before dropping the Texas Rangers 6-3 in Game 5. Toronto was forced to come back in every game of the series, highlighted by a wild 53-minute-long seventh inning in the final stanza.
Tied at 3-3. right fielder Jose Bautista blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to give Toronto a lead it would never relinquish but that came after a highly controversial call and both the Blue Jay and Rangers’ benches clearing.
At the top of the seventh, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to home plate deflected off the bat of Rangers right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and allowed second baseman Rougned Odor to score and put Texas up 3-2. Toronto would play the rest of the game under protest, but Bautista’s second home run of the series erased any chance of more complaints from the Blue Jays and their fans.
All that has set up a repeat of the 1985 ALCS, one Kansas City took in seven games before advancing to win its only World Series title.
In the regular season the two sides were evenly matched, with Toronto taking the series 4-3 and outscoring Kansas City, 39-33.
In Game 1, the Blue Jays plan to start 13-game winner and ALDS Game 3 victor Marco Estrada, who fired off 89 pitches and surrendered only one run to Texas’ high-powered offense over 6 1/3 innings for his first postseason win. However, the 32-year-old Mexican split his two starts against the Royals this season, giving up four earned runs with five strikeouts over 12 1/3 innings.
Righty Edinson Volquez gets the nod for the Royals in Game 1. He also won 13 times in the regular season, but came up with a no decision and a loss in two starts against Toronto’s punishing lineup. Volquez surrendered three earned runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings in Game 3 of the ALDS, and he’s yet to earn a postseason win in three previous starts.
Betting Odds: Blue Jays are 6/5 favorites
Prediction: Blue Jays in 6 games