With the San Francisco Giants’ Game 4 victory over Washington Tuesday night, baseball’s version of the Final Four is set. The Baltimore Orioles will face the Kansas City Royals in a best-of-seven American League Championship Series, while the Giants will square off with the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League. The winners will then meet in the World Series, beginning October 21 in the AL champion’s home stadium.
While we wait for this next round of the playoffs to get underway Friday — let’s face it, back-to-back days in early October without baseball just seems wrong somehow — here is a quick look ahead with everything you need to know about the ALCS and NLCS.
ALCS: Baltimore Orioles vs. Kansas City Royals
- Game 1: Friday, October 10 at Baltimore (TBS)
- Game 2: Saturday, October 11 at Baltimore (TBS)
- Game 3: Monday, October 13 at Kansas City (TBS)
- Game 4: Tuesday, October 14 at Kansas City (TBS)
- Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, October 15 at Kansas City (TBS)
- Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, October 17 at Baltimore (TBS)
- Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday, October at at Baltimore (TBS)
Preview: Baseball fans that love rooting for the underdog — or, for history — should be cheering on the American League the rest of the way in 2014. The Royals are in their first postseason since 1985, and the Orioles haven’t been to the World Series since 1983. These are two franchises — and two fan bases — starved for October success, and the ALCS should be a thrilling, tightly contested series, with the winner automatically becoming the sentimental favorite of the masses to lift the World Series trophy in late October.
Why the Orioles will win: They were the better team all season. Baltimore won 96 games and showed in the divisional round — a sweep of Detroit — that playing without key pieces Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis wasn’t an issue for Buck Showalter’s deep and talented ballclub. (Davis is the only one of the three that could possibly return this postseason, and with five games yet remaining on the slugger’s suspension, he won’t be on the ALCS roster for Baltimore.) The Orioles averaged seven runs in a trio of ALDS wins, and that’s more than enough offense for a team with such a stellar bullpen.
Why the Royals will win: They’re a team of destiny. Kansas City has stolen its way into the hearts of baseball fans across America over the last week, knocking off the Athletics in the wild-card game and then sweeping the favored Angels in three straight. The Royals have an abundance of team speed, and they’re not afraid to use it. With the abundance of pitching and defense that KC has accumulated over the years in an attempt to position itself for a playoff run just like this one, the stars seem to be aligned for the Royals to keep on winning. If Kansas City gets into a close game late, Ned Yost’s bunch can manufacture runs nearly at will by playing small ball.
NLCS: St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants
- Game 1: Saturday, October 11 at St. Louis (Fox)
- Game 2: Sunday, October 12 at St. Louis (Fox Sports 1)
- Game 3: Tuesday, October 14 at San Francisco (Fox Sports 1)
- Game 4: Wednesday, October 15 at San Francisco (Fox Sports 1)
- Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, October 16 at San Francisco (Fox Sports 1)
- Game 6 (if necessary): Saturday, October 18 at St. Louis (Fox)
- Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, October 19 at St. Louis (Fox Sports 1)
Preview: On paper, this series was supposed to pit the 96-win Nationals against the 94-win Dodgers in a showdown of the National League’s best two teams. But, apparently, no one told the Cardinals or Giants that. Two teams with a wealth of recent playoff experience have now advanced to play each other once again in a rematch of the 2012 NLCS. Between St. Louis and San Francisco, the National League’s finalists own three of the last four World Series trophies, and it may very well be four out of five before too long.
Why the Cardinals will win: If they can beat Clayton Kershaw — twice! — they can beat anybody. Matt Carpenter is hitting a home run nearly every night. Adam Wainwright is a 20-game winner and a nice way to lead off a pitching rotation. Lastly, St. Louis always wins in October. This is the Cards’ fourth straight trip to baseball’s final four.
Why the Giants will win: They have an ace of their own: Madison Bumgarner. They can win whether they hit or not. Oh, and they don’t have home-field advantage. Normally, that might seem like a bad thing, but in the teams’ 2014 regular-season meetings, the visitors won five out of seven games. Last, but certainly not least, the Giants beat the Cardinals in 2012 for the chance to go to the World Series. Déjà vu anyone?