October is here and the competition in the MLB is seriously heating up with just four teams remaining in the running for the 2014 World Series title. The League Championship Series kicks off on Friday with an American League battle between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals, while a heated National League rematch between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants begins on Saturday. With these two match-ups, the League Championship Series caters to every baseball fan’s desires with the ALCS featuring a tale of two small market franchises that look to take home their first title in around 30 years and the NLCS boasting a longtime rivalry between two teams that have completely dominated the National League for the last 5 years.
Neither competitor in the National League Championship Series is a stranger to this round of October play, considering the Cardinals prepare to compete in the NLCS for their fourth straight year with the Giants making their third appearance in five years. A rivalry has developed between these two MLB teams that have consistently fought for the past five seasons, as the 2014 World Series marks the fifth consecutive years that either San Francisco or St. Louis will represent the National League in the championship. After winning their division with a 90-72 record and eliminating Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers from the playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals prepare to seek retribution for a loss at last year’s World Series and look to claim their ninth NL pennant since 2000. Led by pitching ace Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals have depth on the pitching mound, reliable sluggers in Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta, and Matt Carpenter, and home field advantage for a slight upper hand in this series. As for the Cardinals opponent, it’s been a slightly magical journey to the NLCS for the San Francisco team that finished second in their division with an 88-74 record. After a dominating 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Giants then eliminated the Washington Nationals from the postseason in just four games. Buster Posey as a threat at the plate coupled with Pablo Sandoval’s notorious postseason heroics, the San Francisco Giants have the offensive power to shut down the Cardinal’s robust pitching staff, as well as a key playmaker in pitcher Tim Lincecum that could lead the team to its third World Series in the last five years. Considering both the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants have a similar playing style with a history of recurrent success in the playoffs, the NLCS couldn’t be more evenly matched and this match-up will definitely be long, low-scoring, and quite exciting.
Meanwhile, for the American League Championship Series, both the Royals and the Orioles shocked baseball by remaining in the postseason through October. In addition to being two underdog teams, both Kansas City and Baltimore are yearning for their first championship since the 1980’s as teams that recorded the first and second most losses in the American League since 2000. Although these two teams have different strengths, each also has opposite weaknesses, that will provide for an interesting ALCS. While the Royals led the majors in stolen bases, the Orioles had the fewest, whereas Baltimore topped the league in home runs and Kansas City hit fewest. As the MLB’s biggest threat at bat, the Orioles have significant strength behind the plate with MLB home run leader Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones who is just getting on a roll, coupled with a strong defensive game. On the other hand, the Royals also have a solid game on both sides of the ball with an aggressive base running scheme and an outfield that has a knack for impressive catches, but a slightly stronger pitching rotation. Both National League contenders also swept their division series on their journey to the League Championship, but with home field advantage, the Baltimore Orioles have the huge benefit of kicking off the series at Camden Yards. Similar to their National League counterparts, the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals match-up should provide a long and interesting series, but instead, throughout this series MLB fans will be rooting for both teams to win.
Considering the League Championship Series offers two entirely different match-ups, one between a storied rivalry and another that pits two underdog teams against each other, this round of play is just a preview to what will set up for one of the most exciting World Series Championships in recent baseball history. Baseball fans, gear up for two exciting series between the four remaining postseason contenders because the road to the 2014 World Series is long and trying.