There will be no baseball played over the next two days, after the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants both punched tickets to the National League Championship Series with Game 4 wins Tuesday night.
The Nationals were knocked out by the Giants on Tuesday, so there will be no Beltway World Series. The elimination of the Nats also means that the Orioles, who won 96 games in the regular season, are alone as the winningest team remaining. The Cardinals won 90 in the regular season, the Royals 89 and the Giants 88.
The Orioles held a full workout late Tuesday afternoon that was closed to the media. It included a three-inning simulated game in which right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, left-hander Brian Matusz and left-hander T.J. McFarland all pitched.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter doesn’t have to finalize his ALCS roster until Friday morning, and expect him to take all the time he has.
It will be interesting to see if he holds 11 pitchers again this series or if he adds another. He left both Matusz and McFarland off the ALDS roster because the Detroit Tigers were a very heavy right-handed lineup.
The Royals have some key left-handed bats, including Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, who are hitting a combined .326 with four homers and 11 RBIs in four postseason games. But as a team, the Royals actually hit left-handed pitching better (.266 average) compared to right-handers (.261).
The left-right splits for Gordon and Hosmer aren’t dramatic, but Moustakas, who has two homers this postseason (both against righties), batted just .172 against left-handers in the regular season.
So having Matusz – or even McFarland – available for situational scenarios might be worthwhile.
Gonzalez was scheduled to start a possible Game 4 but wasn’t needed. It will be interesting to see if the Orioles carry Jimenez for another round. Jimenez is likely the most susceptible to the Royals dangerous running game, but Jimenez has worked to improve his time to the plate and recently made a mechanics change that has made his delivery more compact.
Assuming right-hander Chris Tillman starts Friday’s Game 1, we will see where Gonzalez slots in. He hasn’t pitched since the Orioles’ regular-season finale on Sept. 28.
Showalter might want to get the ball in Gonzalez’s hands sooner than later – maybe as soon as Game 2. That would also ensure Gonzalez would avoid pitching at Kauffman Stadium, where he was rocked for six runs over 4 2/3 innings in one career start there.
Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen and right-hander Bud Norris have pitched well in Kansas City. Chen is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two career starts there and Norris held the Royals to one run over 7 1/3 innings in his only start at Kauffman Stadium.
Those are obviously small sample sizes, but rest assured that Showalter will considered them when selecting the starting rotation.