Giants, Cards, Royals and Orioles chase title


AFP

WASHINGTON — It has been about 30 years since Major League Baseball fans in Baltimore and Kansas City have enjoyed a World Series, but one of those droughts will end this month. And the opponent for whichever club reaches the best-of-seven final will be either the St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants, familiar faces in the playoff final four over the past five seasons. The drama begins Friday when the Kansas City Royals visit the Baltimore Orioles to open the best-of-seven American League championship series while the National League matchup between the Giants and Cardinals begins Saturday in St. Louis. The Orioles, whose 96 regular-season wins are the most of the four remaining teams in the title hunt, have not reached the World Series since winning it in 1983. They had not reached the AL final since 1997. Until this year, the Royals had not reached the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series. While the Royals had the fewest home runs in the major leagues this season, the Orioles led the majors with 211 homers, 107 of them at home in Camden Yards. That has Royals manager Ned Yost planning to use Yordano Ventura as his starting pitcher in game two, in part because Ventura allowed only 14 homers this season, the fewest of any pitcher certain to be in the Royals rotation against Baltimore. “That plays into it,” said Yost. Both teams used 11 pitchers in the divisional playoff round but could add another before Friday’s deadline to set the series roster. The Orioles looked Tuesday at left-handed pitchers T.J. McFarland and Brian Matusz, neither of whom was in the lineup for the opening playoff series win over Detroit. Royals pitchers has a 1.74 earned-run average against the Los Angeles Angels in the prior round with relievers allowing only one run over 12 innings. “We feel pretty comfortable with 11 pitchers right now,” Yost said. Kansas City will threaten with stolen bases, having led the major leagues with 153 this season. The Royals were successful in 81 percent of steal attempts, including all five attempts in seven games against Baltimore. “We’ve got to make stuff happen,” Yost said. “We have to be aggressive on the base paths and we have to try to take advantage of every situation to get into scoring position.” Orioles manager Buck Showalter is less worried about stolen bases and more concerned about denying the Royals base runners. “The focus still has to be on keeping people off the bases as always,” he said.

Cards, Giants Have History St. Louis, which lost to Missouri state rival Kansas City in the 1985 World Series, has a berth in a fourth consecutive National League final while the Giants are in their third NL title series in five seasons. “Seems like it’s inevitable that we match up with the Cardinals at some point,” Giants relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said. “They probably feel the same way about us.” San Francisco trailed St. Louis 3-1 in the 2012 NL finals before the Giants won the final three games — by a combined 20-1 run total — to eliminate the Cardinals and went on to sweep Detroit in the World Series. The Giants have a still-ongoing run of 11 wins in their past 12 playoff starts. The Cardinals, who lead the major leagues with 30 playoff triumphs in the past five seasons, seek their second World Series title in four seasons after having lost last year’s final to Boston. The Giants will try to claim their third World Series crown in five campaigns. They have won seven playoff series in a row.