DETROIT - May as well sip mimosas this morning with the leftovers. There’s plenty of champagne left.
In case you missed my update late last night, the Orioles have home-field advantage through the rest of the postseason after the Royals swept the Angels in the American League Division Series.
Orioles and Royals in the Championship Series. How many experts picked that one?
Game 1 of the ALCS is scheduled for Friday at Camden Yards, followed by Game 2 on Saturday. The Royals will host Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) on Oct. 13-15.
Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be played in Baltimore on Oct. 17 and 18.
The Orioles went 3-4 against the Royals this season and were outscored 26-18. Chris Tillman, the likely Game 1 starter, threw a five-hit shutout on May 16 in Kansas City.
The Orioles’ 3.43 ERA ranked third in the AL and the Royals’ 3.51 ERA ranked fourth. The Orioles’ 3.10 bullpen ERA ranked third and Kansas City’s 3.30 bullpen ERA ranked fifth.
Both teams are strong defensively. It’s an intriguing matchup.
The Orioles had photos of the jerseys of Detroit’s three Cy Young Award winners hanging in their clubhouse with an X drawn through each one. They could get James Shields in Game 1 on Friday.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter can adjust his 25-man roster for the ALCS. He’s got the rest of the week to think about it.
Showalter could choose to carry 12 pitchers instead of 11. Does Ubaldo Jimenez come off the roster? Is Jimmy Paredes the most vulnerable position player, with Ryan Flaherty appearing to be the regular third baseman in the playoffs?
McFarland took the news of his exclusion from the ALDS roster in stride.
“I had a talk with Dom (Chiti) about it,” McFarland said on Saturday. “It wasn’t all that much of a surprise for me just because if you look at the (Tigers’) roster, there’s a lot of righties over there. The way it played out, we needed some other personnel down there in the bullpen. That’s how it works.
“I’m not offended by it. It’s a team game. We’ve got the best guys out there to try to win the games and it’s been working, obviously. But that’s how it was explained to me. More of just a personnel thing.”
McFarland figured his chances would improve if the Orioles advanced to the ALCS.
“Yeah, that’s the good and bad part about setting the roster. It’s only for that series, so obviously if you keep winning, you can keep having a chance to possibility make the roster in another series,” McFarland said.
“Hopefully, I get a shot for the next one. We’ll see.”
Bud Norris was outstanding last night. Now, he’s got to wait his turn in the ALCS.
“He’s never pitched a really important game in his career,” said center fielder Adam Jones. “Obviously, every game he pitches is important to himself, but this was the first game that he’s ever pitched, a team-important game. I think he did quite well. Very well.”
Shortstop J.J. Hardy has been impressed with all the starters.
“They’ve been outstanding,” he said. “Bud was great today. He came out and was throwing 95, 96. His slider kept them off-balance. He’s been great for us all year.
“Tillman, you can go through the starting five and the bullpen. Everybody’s been great.”
Players seemed shocked to learn that Showalter never had won a Division Series.
“That’s hard to believe,” Hardy said. “It’s awesome. It’s good for him. It’s good for the fans. It’s good all around.”
Could Hardy have imagined sweeping a team like Detroit, with that starting rotation?
“You never know, you never know,” he said. “We knew what we were getting into, three Cy Youngs, back-to-back-to-back, great team over there. We don’t expect to win in three straight, but since we did, we’re pretty excited.
“I feel like we’re a pretty darn good team. Just kind of shows when you go out there and win three straight against these guys.”
The Orioles don’t expect to suddenly be deemed as overwhelming favorites in a series, and they’re fine with it.
“We enjoy being the underdogs, to try and fly under the radar,” Hardy said. “As long as we can do that, the better.”
A reporter asked Showalter if he felt the Orioles matched up better with the Royals or Angels. Did he really expect Showalter to bite on that one?
“Seriously? Come on, man,” he said. “I’m not going to... I don’t think anybody matches up good against those two teams. You don’t match up good.
“These are the best teams left. The best players in the world. And these are the best the world has to offer. So, everybody is very capable. Everybody’s got strengths and weaknesses and we’re just excited and honored to be a part of it.”
The Tigers would have started Rick Porcello in Game 4 if they won last night. Porcello noted yesterday how the Orioles have “a little different lineup now” than earlier in the season.
I’d say so, considering how it’s missing Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis.
“The biggest thing is they don’t stop fighting,” he said. “A lot of them are very aggressive, a lot of them can hurt you with doubles and home runs. So, you’ve really got to keep the ball down on them.
“It’s definitely one of those teams where you can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes. They hit mistakes and they do damage with mistakes. They don’t just take base hits, they drive the ball. So, you’ve got to keep the ball down. And a lot of the same things get these guys out as other teams, but they’ve been capitalizing on mistakes and that’s why they’ve been so good lately.”
Porcello was able to do a little more scouting while observing the first three games.
“I think you can watch and see what guys are attacking and what guys are struggling with,” he said. “That changes throughout the course of the year. Some guys are hitting the breaking ball early on or the fastball early on and that can change.
“They’re definitely different than when I saw them early on this year.”
Could someone please alert the TBS studio crew that a tie does not go to the runner? Gary Sheffield kept saying it while the network replayed Jonathan Schoop’s glove scoop to Steve Pearce on Andrew Romine’s grounder that ended the second inning and prevented a run from scoring.
Update: For those who have been asking and want to welcome the Orioles back home, the team is expected to arrive at Camden Yards around 3:30 p.m. The Orioles will pull up near the southwest corner of the ballpark by home plate plaza.