Some random thoughts on the ALCS as Monday's Game 3 in Kansas City has been rained out ...
How a rainout could affect the rotations
Here's how the rotations and schedule lined up prior to the rainout:
Game 7, Oct. 18: Chen versus Guthrie
The biggest impact of tonight's game being rained out wouldn't come until a potential Game 7. Game 3 starters Chen and Guthrie would be lined up to start that game on three days of rest (Oct. 16 becomes the date for Game 5 instead of a travel day).
If Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Royals manager Ned Yost don't want to start those two guys on short rest, then you'd be looking at each team's No. 5 starter going in Game 7: That's Kevin Gausman for the Orioles and Danny Duffy for the Royals (Ubaldo Jimenez isn't on the Baltimore roster this series). Of course, Gausman has been used as a vital piece of the Baltimore bullpen, so he's more likely to be used at some point than Duffy.
Chen on three days of rest -- with an all-hands-on-deck approach from the relievers -- wouldn't be the worst option. Of course, the Orioles have to get there first. And that's if nothing nutty happens between now and then. Part of what made the 2004 ALCS such a classic series was that two extra-inning games between the Red Sox and Yankees and a rainout before Game 3 created havoc once Game 7 rolled around because some starters had been used in relief. The Yankees started Kevin Brown on three days' rest and he got knocked out in the second inning. The Red Sox started Derek Lowe on two days' rest and he was magnificent, allowing one run and one hit in six innings.
Guthrie over Vargas? Discuss
This was an interesting decision because Vargas, not Guthrie, started Game 1 of the division series against the Angels. And it was mildly surprising because Vargas pitched six innings against the Angels and allowed two runs (both were homers). Usually in the postseason, managers stick with what has worked, so you would have thought that Vargas would be the guy lined up to get a possible second start in the series. Guthrie also hasn't pitched since Sept. 26, so the two-week layoff could be a good thing or a bad thing or a nothing thing.
Of course, both are similar pitchers (except Guthrie is right-handed and Vargas is left-handed). Both are low-strikeout guys who give up home runs. Their opponents' batting lines were basically identical this year:
Slight edge to Vargas.
It looks like the difference is Guthrie was better against right-handers, so starting him gives the Royals a better chance of neutralizing the Orioles' right-handed power of Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Steve Pearce. The numbers versus righties:
That means Guthrie has a big platoon split, as lefties hit .297 and slugged .480 against him. Finally, Vargas had a 2.73 ERA on the road and 4.53 at home, which is kind of odd because Kansas City is considered a good park for fly ball pitchers. Either way, it's probably a toss-up and you can make the argument that Duffy is the guy who should be starting this game regardless.
Battle of the bullpens, Part 3
As we go deeper into the rotations, it becomes even more likely managers will have to rely on their bullpens -- or at least rely on them earlier than usual. Even though Darren O'Day got the loss in each of the first two games and Zach Britton struggled in both outings, it's not the time for Showalter to panic (like he did in 1995, when he suddenly was afraid to use John Wetteland). O'Day has allowed five of his eight home runs this season since Sept. 1, and you don't want to completely dismiss the idea that he may be tiring a bit, so I'm guessing that Showalter will be hesitant to use him against the three lefty hitters who can hit it out of the park in Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas.
But that's easier said than done, because those three guys are spread out in the Kansas City lineup, batting third, sixth and ninth. So that likely means either using O'Day against some lefties or Brian Matusz against some righties (and he allowed a .525 slugging percentage against right-handers). A lot of this depends on how deep Chen goes and whether Showalter has to use Gausman or Tommy Hunter early in the game.
As for Yost, even though the Royals are ahead in the series and he may be reluctant to use Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland for more than three outs at a time -- they may have to play three games in a row (and perhaps even five) -- it's no time to let off the pedal. Given Guthrie's severe splits, Yost shouldn't hesitate to remove him in a big situation against a lefty hitter in the middle innings. He has Duffy and Brandon Finnegan from the left side for those innings. Use them, even if it raises the possibility of Delmon Young coming off the bench to pinch hit for Alejandro De Aza or Ryan Flaherty.
History says Kansas City is going to the World Series
In the best-of-seven era (since 1985), 24 teams have lost the first two games of an LCS. Only three of those recovered to win the series -- the 1985 Royals, the 1985 Cardinals and 2004 Red Sox. All three did so after losing the first two on the road, so the Orioles are trying to create some sort of history here. It's not unprecedented for a team to win any playoff series after losing the first two at home, however. The 1986 Mets did it in the World Series, for example.
It's going to be a hard task for the Orioles, but win two of three to get back to Camden Yards, and you never know.