After two wins out of the Kansas City Royals, the ALCS shifts to Toronto as the Blue Jays are in a familiar position. It was just last week that the Blue Jays were down 2-0 to the Rangers, but managed to complete the comeback to wind up in this position against the Royals. Other than the win in game 5, the Blue Jays haven’t been the best in the Rogers Centre, dropping the first two at home against the Rangers. The Jays forced game 2 by winning two on the road in Texas. So if you look at it that way the Blue Jays are in trouble. I don’t think the home-road thing comes into as much as playing the Royals does. The Royals are a scrappy team and seem to just have the “it” factor. I liken them to a lite version of the San Francisco Giants. Let’s not say they are the same, because the Giants have the World Series to show for it, but the Royals may very well win it all this season. Despite not having big names on their roster, like the Giants, they are getting it done due to their pitching. The bullpen is particularly phenomenal. After they come in it’s almost lights out time.
On the Blue Jays’ side all of the big names are there. You have Jose Bautista, Edwan Encarnarcion, Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, and so forth. The Jays have the big payroll, but the Royals are the ones pushing their weight around. Does this ever look familiar, Tigers I’m looking at you. Let’s not jump to conclusions yet and declare it a Royals/Mets World Series. The Blue Jays were hanging by one game last series and came back to win. However, coming from behind twice poses a big challenge for the Blue Jays. The Royals, as we have seen, have been making the big plays for two years now. Even when it was 3-0 for the Jays, you knew the Royals were going to make a run late to make a game of it. Just like the Rangers did, a blunder from the Jays opened up a big inning. It had the opposite impact on the Blue Jays this time, hurting them instead of helping. Besides that, I think it was time for David Price to get yanked after that play. There is equal blame to go around. Speaking of which, did you see that Michigan game this weekend? Yikes. Moving on to my pick for the ALCS.
Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays Pick
Johnny Cueto (11-13, 3.44 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (4-0, 2.25)
I was saying for a long time that it was only a matter of time before Cueto was dealt to a contender. The Royals were that team. Just like the Blue Jays, the Royals were looking for an ace and they landed Cueto. The Royals survived the first two games without their ace on the mound and now they get him with a 2-0 lead in the series. He really hasn’t been as great as the Royals wished for though when they made the move for him. Cueto owns a 5-7 record and 4.63 ERA as a member of the Royals. He hasn’t been able to get a taste of the postseason with the Reds. In two games against the Astros in the postseason, he allowed 4 runs and 2 runs each. His last start, where he allowed 2 runs, Cueto looked great, giving up just 2 hits as well.
The Jays will counter with Marcus Stroman, who hasn’t had the benefit of pitching a full season, but is it a blessing in disguise for him? Stroman was in rehab nursing a torn ACL for most of this year. He actually went to college to keep himself busy while recouping. Stroman has looked in good shape now that he’s back. He holds a 1.67 ERA since returning and in his lone start against the Royals in his career, Stroman allowed just 1 run. Cueto, who is a fastball pitcher, has had difficulties facing the Jays in his career. Note that the Jays love fastballs. Cueto loves the four-seamer and two-seamer, along with a slider. If the slider isn’t on he can get nailed. In 7-3 of his last ten starts he has allowed 3 or more runs, so he hasn’t been as automatic as we seen with the Reds. Cueto also has a career 4.50 against the Blue Jays. The Jays get this one and restore hope in Blue Jays nation.
PICK: BLUE JAYS TO WIN -165