Five things the Orioles must do to bounce back in ALCS against Royals

October 12, 2014|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles head to Kansas City down two games in the American League Championship Series as play shifts to Kauffman Stadium for the next three matchups with the Royals.

They’re facing unprecedented odds. Since the LCS round went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, no team has lost the first two games of the series and came back to win.

It’s a tough mountain to climb in the flat Midwest, especially against a Royals team that has seen everything go its way and has won all six of its postseason games this year.

Here are five things the Orioles must do to get back into the series:

Get a lead

The Orioles have never had a lead through the first two games of the series. And even though they have proved that they have the ability to comeback from deficits, they’ve lacked the big hit to allow them to go ahead.

Getting a lead changes the complexion of the game.

The starting pitchers aren’t as tight. The hitters can be confident with being more patient at the plate. And in a series in which the value of momentum has been evident, the Orioles need a lead on the road to put a dent in the Royals' armor.

Going up early in Game 3 also would help to quiet the Kauffman Stadium crowd, like the Royals did early at Camden Yards in the first two games.

Deeper starts

The Orioles will need deeper starts from their rotation. In the first two games of the ALCS, starters Chris Tillman and Bud Norris each lasted just 4 1/3 innings.

That marked the first time since the 1973 ALCS that Orioles starting pitchers worked 4 1/3 innings or less in consecutive postseason starts. In that series, Jim Palmer lasted just 1 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the ALCS and Doyle Alexander went just 3 2/3 innings in Game 5.

All hands are on deck in the postseason, but the Orioles definitely need better outings from their starters. The bullpen has accounted for 10 1/3 innings already in the first two games.

Offense from Steve Pearce

Orioles starting first baseman Steve Pearce, who has been a big part of the team’s success, is 0-for-9 through the first two games of the series. In Saturday’s loss, Pearce was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.

Pearce also left six runners on base Saturday. Each of the Orioles’ 2-3-4 hitters -- Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz -- each had two hits, but Pearce, batting fifth, was unable to capitalize on those guys getting on base ahead of him.

Pearce reached base five times in 12 AL Division Series plate appearances, but he hasn’t been able to duplicate that so far in this series.

When he came to the plate with the bases loaded in a tied game in the seventh inning Saturday, Pearce appeared to be pressing as he swung at balls out of the strike zone instead of waiting for his pitch and uncorking on it.

Stop Mike Moustakas

This one is simple. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has four home runs in the postseason, including two in the ALCS, both of which have given the Royals the lead.

Moustakas hasn’t hit left-handed pitchers well, even though he hit one of his homers off Brian Matusz. He’s on a tear unlike any player we’ve seen this postseason, but you still have to try to expose his weaknesses.

Moustakas may be on a roll now, but he is still the player who hit just .172 against left-handed pitching in the regular season.

Don’t allow the leadoff runner on base

The Royals haven’t run all over the Orioles like they did against their first two postseason opponents, and the Orioles should get credit for that.

But in the first two games, the Orioles put themselves in a hole by allowing the leadoff man on base too often. It plays into the Royals strength.

And even if they’re not stealing bases, you still need to account for them and respect their ability to take the extra base.

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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