The 2014 MLB season will see either one team cement itself as a dynasty, or another bring its city a championship for the first time in 29 years. On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals will host the San Francisco Giants at Kauffman Stadium for Game 1 of the best-of-seven World Series.
En route to the Fall Classic, the Royals have gone undefeated in the playoffs, and the Giants lost just one game in each series. Even though the two teams combined to go 8-1 in the championship series, neither one had an easy time winning the pennant.
Kansas City swept the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series, but each game was a nail-biter. The wild-card team needed 10 innings to take Game 1, and didn’t jump ahead for good in Game 2 until the ninth inning. The Royals closed out the series with a pair of 2-1 victories.
San Francisco shut out the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of the National League Championship Series, but three of the final four games ended in walk-off fashion. The Giants trailed in the clincher for much of the way, but tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, and won it with a home run by Travis Ishikawa in the ninth.
Making their first playoff appearance in nearly three decades, the Royals don’t have the experience of the Giants, who are looking to win their third title in five seasons. Even though much of the Kansas City team is new to the postseason, they’ve been so good since the end of the regular season that they’ve been made the slightest of favorites to win the World Series, according to Bovada.lv.
Other than their 89-73 record, the Royals were largely an average team through 162 games. They had a run differential of just +27, ranked 14th in runs scored and 12th in earned-run average. In their last eight games, Kansas City has played like a team that is destined to win it all.
Half of the Royals’ playoff wins have come in extra innings, and only their ALDS clincher wasn’t decided by one run or in the ninth inning. Perhaps most impressive has been Kansas City’s lineup, which has produced when needed over the last eight games.
With 95 homes runs, the Royals ranked last in the regular season. The playoffs have been a different story, as Kansas City has averaged a long ball per game. They’ve also had an improved slugging percentage (.390), led by Eric Hosmer and his 22 total bases.
The Giants had a slightly better offense in the regular season, but the team’s lineup has had its struggles in the playoffs. San Francisco is hitting a home run every other game to go along with a .240 batting average. Pablo Sandoval has been their most consistent hitter, while Buster Posey is still searching for his first extra-base hit.
If San Francisco wins the World Series, it will likely be due to its strong starting staff. Madison Bumgarner might not be nicknamed “Big Game” like James Shields, Kansas City’s Game 1 starter, but he’s separated himself from the rest of the pitchers in the 2014 playoffs. The left-hander might be the biggest weapon either team has, considering he’s pitched at least seven innings in each postseason start, posting a 1.42 ERA.
The rotation featuring Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Ryan Vogelsong has pitched to a 2.40 ERA in the playoffs. While the rotation of Shields, Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, and Jeremy Guthrie has been average at best, Kansas City’s bullpen gives the team a more than formidable pitching staff. Four Royals relievers have thrown at least three innings with a 1.80 ERA or better, including Wade Davis, Greg Holland, and Kelvin Herrera, who have allowed three total runs in 25.2 innings.
Neither team was among the World Series favorites to start the season. In February, the Giants were tied with the eighth-best betting odds to win the title. Only 10 teams were given a worse chance than the Royals.
Starting Pitching: Edge to the Giants
Bullpen: Edge to the Royals
Batting: Edge to the Royals
Bench: Edge to the Royals
Manager: Edge to the Giants
Betting Odds: Royals are -115, Giants are -105
Prediction: Royals in 7