It’s been six long days since we’ve had baseball to watch after San Francisco took care of St. Louis in five games in the NLCS. Kansas City had an extra day off after completing a sweep of Baltimore in the ALCS. I was hoping for a rematch of the 1985 Fall Classic when the Royals faced the Cardinals in the battle of Missouri. I was half-right on my LCS predictions as I correctly called the Giants to win the NLCS but swung and missed on the Orioles winning the AL pennant.
I think San Francisco is going to win it all this year. They have the experience of being on the big stage in 2010 and 2012 and they knocked off two really good teams in Washington and St. Louis to get to this point. The Royals have home-field advantage and they need to win the first two games at home to have a chance. Otherwise, I think the same fate that befell the Cards will await in the form of a five game series loss. My gut feeling says the Giants will take it in five games. I worry about the Royals bullpen because of their heavy workload despite having a week off.
Grantland has a great World Series preview and you check out more predictions from the writers at Sports Illustrated.
Having said that, I hope the Royals win it. There are a few players with Blue Jays connections and I would like to see them get a World Series ring, especially Jason Frasor. He’s had his ups and downs with Toronto but he persevered to the point where he became the club’s all-time appearances leader with 505. The 37 year-old righty has done pretty well with Kansas City since coming over from Texas in mid-July, going 3-0 with a 1.53 earned run average in the regular season and is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in the post-season. Frasor could not prevent an inherited runner from scoring in the 12th inning of the AL Wild Card game against Oakland but he got his first-ever playoff win when the Royals scored twice in their half of the 12th to advance to the ALDS. He was also the benefactor of that diving catch into the seats by Mike Moustakas in Game 3 of the ALCS to earn the win that put the Royals at the doorstep of the World Series.
Scott Downs is another former Blue Jay on the American League champion Royals.
I’d also like to see Scott Downs get a ring but the lefty has been reduced to the role of cheerleader for the postseason. His 2014 campaign was not one of his better ones as he was released by the Chicago White Sox in early July after a 0-2 record with a 6.08 ERA. The 38 year-old also went 0-2 with the Royals but nearly cut his ERA in half with a 3.14 mark. However, he only struck out three batters in 14-1/3 innings with K.C. after whiffing 22 in 23-2/3 innings with the Pale Hose. Walks have been an issue this season as Downs has thrown ball four 20 times which translates into a walk rate of 4.7 per nine innings. I have a soft spot for Downs as he wore Dave Stieb‘s number 37 with distinction during his six seasons in Toronto. Working mostly out of the bullpen, he went 20-18 with a 3.13 ERA and saved 16 games for Toronto from 2005-2010. Besides, he also pitched for the Montreal Expos and its Triple-A affiliate at the time, the Edmonton Trappers, who he threw a no-hitter for back in 2004. The free-agent signing of Downs in the winter of ’04 may very well have been J.P. Ricciardi‘s finest acquisition during his time as the Blue Jays general manager.
Catcher Erik Kratz has been backing up Salvador Perez since being acquired with righty Liam Hendriks in a trade deadline move that sent infielder Danny Valencia to Toronto. Kratz was selected in the 29th round by the Blue Jays in the 2002 amateur draft but he did not make his big league debut until 2010 with Pittsburgh. He saw more playing time on the other side of Pennsylvania by playing parts of the next three years in Philadelphia before he was sent to Toronto with lefty Rob Rasmussen for righty Brad Lincoln last December. Battling for playing time behind the plate with free-agent signing Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole, Kratz was on the Toronto-Buffalo shuttle this season before going to K.C. He belted a home run in his first Toronto plate appearance to prevent a shutout in Tampa Bay on Opening Night before socking a two-run dinger to help the Jays pound Cliff Lee and the Phillies 10-0 back on May 7. The National Post had a nice feature on Kratz’s perseverance earlier this season.
Liam Hendriks made three starts for the Jays in 2014 and the team emerged victorious in all three of them. Hendriks got the win in his Toronto debut May 23by pitching 5-2/3 innings of one-run ball against Oakland. He followed that up five days later with just two runs allowed over six frames as the Jays eventually beat Tampa Bay. His lone road start was a disaster as he was whacked for six runs over 1.2 innings in Cincinnati on June 20. However, the Jays rallied from a 8-0 deficit to beat the Reds 14-9 to give yours truly a very Happy Birthday, snapping my seven-year b-day losing streak in the process! Hendriks is not on the Royals playoff roster.
Infielder Jayson Nix was a Blue Jay in 2011. Picked up from Cleveland in a trade for cash money before the season, Nix’s first game with the Jays was his best one. He homered and drew a pair of walks April 2 to lift the Jays to a 6-1 win over Minnesota at the Dome. He suffered a leg injury in a game after a collision with Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez at second base during a game April 22 and missed nearly a month. Nix hit just .169 with four homers and 16 runs batted in before he was released by the team in early July. He has just one at-bat this postseason and that came during the Wild Card game against Oakland in which he struck out. As a matter of fact, Nix is hitless in 10 plate appearances with the Royals with his only contribution coming in the form of a sacrifice fly. The 32 year-old started the year in Philadelphia and also saw time in Pittsburgh with a minor league stint in Tampa Bay’s system in between. In a combined 43 major league plate appearances, Nix hit just .133 with a homer and four RBI.
Another Blue Jays connection on the Royals includes lefty reliever Tim Collins, who pitched in the Jays minor league system from 2007-2010 until he was traded to Atlanta with shortstops Alex Gonzalez and Tyler Pastornicky for fellow shortstop Yunel Escobar and pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes (UGH!). Collins was a non-drafted free agent signing of the Jays after he was discovered by then-general manager J.P. Ricciardi in his home state of Massachusetts. Ricciardi saw the 5-foot-7 lefty strike out 12 batters in four innings during an American Legion game. Collins has been with the Royals since 2011 and has posted a 12-17 record with a 3.54 ERA while striking out 220 batters in 211 innings. His lone postseason appearance was in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels where he hit a batter but also struck out one in his two-thirds of an inning appearance.
Marco Scutaro hit .275 with a .362 on-base percentage during his two seasons in Toronto.
As for San Francisco, there are three players with Blue Jays connections and all of them are Venezuelan. The most prominent tie-in is second baseman Marco Scutaro, who was with the Jays in 2008 and 2009. He came over in a trade with Oakland that saw pitchers Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell head the other way. A finger injury to Scott Rolen and a concussion to Aaron Hill after running into David Eckstein gave Scooter lots of playing time at third base and second base in ’08. The following season saw Scutaro play short and belt a career-high 12 home runs and tie his career mark of 60 runs batted in from 2007. His career has gone pretty well up until this season. He has the distinction of recording the first hit at Minnesota’s Target Field as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2010. He won the MVP of the 2012 NLCS and scored the World Series winning run. However, Scutaro has been sidelined by a back injury for most of this season and it appears to be career threatening. He’s only played five games this season, all in July, and batted just .091 in 13 plate appearances. Scutaro turns 39 on October 30.
Reliever Jean Machi spent the 2007 and 2008 campaigns at Double-A New Hampshire but he never sipped any java in Toronto. Machi was 2-4 with a 3.53 ERA pitching out of the Fisher Cats bullpen in 2007 over 48 appearances but regressed to a 2-6 record and a 4.65 mark in 2008 over nine starts and 12 relief appearances. The 32 year-old Venezuelan – who first signed with Philadelphia as an amateur free agent back in 2000 – finally reached the majors with San Francisco in 2012 and has been a key member of the bullpen after posting ERA’s of 2.38 and 2.58 over the last two seasons. He’s 10-2 in his big league career thanks to winning seven of eight decisions in 2014. He’s not had a great postseason so far as he has been victimized for two home runs over 2-1/3 innings.
The other member on the Giants with ties to the Jays is catcher Guillermo Quiroz. The one-time “catcher of the future” broke into the bigs with Toronto in 2004 and stayed there until 2005. He went 2-for-4 in his major league debut September 4 but hit just .205 overall with the Jays with zero homers and 10 RBI. However, Quiroz stole his only major league base with Toronto and still has a 100 percent success rate on the basepaths. The 32 year-old has also spent time with Seattle, Texas, Baltimore and Boston before spending parts of the last two years with San Francisco. This season, Quiroz managed just three at-bats with the Giants and did not record a hit. He is not on the Giants playoff roster.
On the coaching side, Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu was the Jays bench coach during the 2011-2012 seasons and Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti pitched (if you can call it that!) for Toronto in 1994. He was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA over 13 appearances in which he had a K-BB total of 10-10 in 13-1/3 innings.