It’s been a long time since the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals were in the postseason during the same season (1980 to be exact). In 2015, that trend has changed, as these two teams are set to battle in the American League Division Series.
These two teams have been on different paths this season, but both found ways to get to this point. After making a World Series appearance in 2014, the Royals returned the majority of their core pieces, adding some key veterans along the way. Kansas City dominated the American League Central Division, winning 95 games during the regular season and finishing 12 games ahead of the second-place Minnesota Twins.
Heading into the month of September, it appeared as if the Astros were going to win the American League West Division. Due to a sluggish month of September, the Astros lost their division lead to the Texas Rangers, who ended up winning the division during the last weekend of the regular season.
However, Houston luckily was not shut out of the playoffs, as they clinched the second Wild Card spot on the final day of the regular season. Behind their ace Dallas Keuchel, the Astros defeated the New York Yankees 3-0 at Yankee Stadium in the American League Wild Card game to advance to this series.
With regards to this matchup, it should be a really interesting series. During the regular season, the Astros won the season series 4-2, including winning the first four match ups between the two teams. In the final series between the two teams, the Royals won two of three on their home field.
These two teams haven’t played against each other since July 26. A lot has changed since then, so this series should definitely be interesting to keep an eye on.
Here’s a look at the schedule for this upcoming series (all times Eastern Time):
Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 8 at Kansas City, 7:37 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Game 2: Friday, Oct. 9 at Kansas City, 3:45 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 11 at Houston, 4:10 p.m. (MLB Network)
Game 4: Monday, Oct. 12 at Houston, TBD (Fox Sports 1)*
Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 14 at Kansas City, TBD (Fox Sports 1)*
Of course, both teams have their strengths that they need to capitalize on in order to win this series and advance to the American League Championship Series. Here are my keys for each team in regards to this series.
1) Hit the long ball. During the regular season, the Astros were second in the American League with 230 home runs. As we saw in the AL Wild Card Game, this team relies a lot on the long ball, so it will be important for them to continue hitting home runs throughout their postseason run.
2) Put the ball in play. Along with their tremendous power, the young Astros team also strikes out a lot. Their 1,280 punch outs were second-most in all of baseball, and in order to win this series, they must try to cut down on their strikeouts. Kauffman Stadium is a tough hitters’ ballpark, so the Astros must realize that they have to put the ball in play to be successful.
Kansas City Royals
1) Use playoff experience to your advantage. The Houston Astros are very much like the Royals were last year: they have a lot of young talent with a lack of playoff experience. After their tremendous run to the World Series last year, the Royals must learn from that experience, using it to their advantage this season. If they can learn from last season, it could give them the upper hand in this series.
2) Johnny Cueto must be an “ace.” When the Royals traded for Cueto near the July trade deadline, the goal was for him to anchor this staff for the postseason run. However, Cueto has greatly struggled, posting an ERA over five in his last seven starts of the season.
If the Royals want to make a deep run this October, they need Cueto to return to his regular form. If he can get back on track, the Royals could be a very tough team to deal with this postseason.
With playoff experience and home-field advantage on their side, it’s hard to bet against the Kansas City Royals in this series. It should be a very good series, as both teams are very solid, but I expect the Royals to once again advance to the ALCS.
Prediction: Royals in five games.