Last year the Houston Astros went 70-92 which was an improvement after three straight 100-loss seasons. Before the Royals put together a string of three straight winning seasons including this year’s 95-67 Central Division leading finish, Kansas City’s win totals ranged from 56 to 75 over nine seasons.
Both clubs prove that with patience and a rebuild of the franchise from the ground up good things can happen. That’s about as far as these two teams compare. On the field, they play different styles of baseball.
Houston loves to swing for the fences. They have Crawford’s Box just 315 feet away in left field. They swing from their heels and when they hit the ball it goes far. When they miss (and it happens often) they look bad. They led all of MLB in strikeouts with 1,392.
The Royals are solid from top to bottom in their order. They drive the ball in their big park, steal bases, advance on throws. Their power has increased but they’ll use speed and situational hitting to beat their opponents. They led the American League with the fewest strikeouts and the least amount of walks. They put the ball in play.
“I think both teams sense the opportunity might be there to make a run in October,” said Houston manager A.J. Hinch, who played with the Royals in the early 2000’s during those lean years. “Certainly, they’ve been a year or two ahead of us in this, I guess, move to the middle of relevant baseball with their run last year. But both really good clubs.”
Not many on the Royals roster are banking on last year’s experience to help them.
“We had a good run last year, but that was last year,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “This is a new season now, the best team is going to win. We have to find a way to beat that club.”
The starting pitchers:
Yordano Ventura: He’s been the Royals’ best starter the past two months. Since being demoted in late July and instantly recalled when Jason Vargas suffered a season-ending elbow injury, Ventura is 9-1 with a 3.10 ERA. His first win after that non-demotion came against the Astros.
Collin McHugh: Yes the Royals will only face 20-game winner Dallas Keuchel once, but they’ll have to deal with McHugh, a 19-game winner. The only other time McHugh faced the Royals in his career, he didn’t allow a run, pitching seven scoreless innings while striking out nine back in May.