The Tigers and Dodgers will be watching their respective League Championship Series from their homes, having been sent packing for an early winter. Perhaps they should take some notes.
Unlike those two high-priced duds, the Orioles and Royals find themselves four wins from the World Series thanks in part to their loaded bullpens, units that helped Baltimore and Kansas City sweep their first-round matchups to advance to the ALCS.
During the heyday of the most recent Yankees dynasty, playing deep into October was an annual ritual. Advancing to the ALCS was practically a formality as the Bombers made seven appearances between 1996-2004.
Meet the new Yankees: The St. Louis Cardinals.
Having dispatched of Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers Tuesday night, the Cardinals find themselves in their fourth consecutive NLCS, the first team since Joe Torre’s 1998-2001 Yankees to play for the pennant four straight years.
They’re the first team to get to the NLCS four consecutive times since the 1995-99 Braves, who appeared in five straight. Since 2000, St. Louis has been to the NLCS nine times, advancing to the World Series four times and winning it all twice.
So while the Cardinals took part in the customary champagne celebration after Tuesday night’s Game 4 victory, they know there’s still plenty of work to do.
“This is not to discredit any other team in the league but when we clinched the playoff berth, we didn’t celebrate until we won the division,” Matt Carpenter said. “That’s just the expectation here. We enjoy making the postseason, but it’s almost something that we expect. When we get here, we want to win every round, but we expect to go to the World Series. Anything less is a disappointment. That’s the culture that has been instilled here.”
On the other site of the states The Royals have put together as impressive a 1-2-3 punch at the back end of the bullpen as any in baseball. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland have been nearly unhittable, all three posting sub-2.00 ERAs this season to provide Ned Yost with the ultimate late-inning security blanket.
“The arms they run out there are impressive,” the scout said. “Now they’ve added some guys like (rookie Brandon) Finnegan, and Davis had an amazing year. They just have thunder out of their pen; guys throwing 100 mph with dirty stuff.”
Baltimore’s bullpen might not be as formulaic as Kansas City’s, but Buck Showalter has a deep arsenal of arms at his disposal and a golden touch when it comes to using them.
Zach Britton emerged as an All-Star closer this season, while Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter give Showalter two dependable arms that offer different looks to the opposition. Add in deadline acquisition Andrew Miller (0.60 WHIP, 34 strikeouts in 20 innings with Baltimore) from the left side and the Orioles have a solid group that can match up with any lineup out there.