Royals Roll to Even World Series

No Need for Giants to Panic

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The first week of the MLB postseason has had it all.

We’ve seen teams mount unimaginable comebacks late in games, whether it be the Kansas City Royals rallying to defeat the Oakland A’s in the AL Wild Card Game or the Baltimore Orioles getting to the Detroit Tigers bullpen for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning in American League Division Series Game 2.

We’ve also seen some historical collapses, most notably Clayton Kershaw yielding seven earned runs to the St. Louis Cardinals during the seventh inning of National League Division Series Game 2. It certainly wasn’t what anyone was expecting for the soon-to-be three-time NL Cy Young Award winner.

In general, the first week of the postseason has been full of surprises. And based on how some of these series are playing out, it’s a safe bet there’s going to be even more in the coming weeks.

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The Detroit Tigers made a statement when they acquired David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

With a starting rotation that already featured a pair of Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander as well as Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello, adding Price gave the Tigers arguably the top staff in the American League—a unit built for the postseason.

"Simply put, Price makes the Tigers’ rotation the envy of the bulk of the baseball world," wrote Grantland's Jonah Keri in the wake of the trade. "While Detroit was going to make the postseason with or without Price, he’ll give them an undeniable edge in October."

Naturally, one would think that being traded to a playoff contender, let alone a preseason favorite to win the World Series such as the Tigers, would come with a tremendous amount of pressure.

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The Detroit Tigers' bullpen was their glaring weakness during the regular season, as late-inning collapses at times overshadowed their top-flight starting rotation and potent offense.

That trend carried over into Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers bullpen coughed up eight runs in the eighth inning en route to a 12-3 loss in the opener.

The game was closer than the final score suggested. The Tigers trailed by just one run, 4-3, heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. And then the wheels fell off for Detroit.

Starter Max Scherzer recorded the first out of the inning before a double by Alejandro De Aza signaled the end of his night. Relieving the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner was right-hander Joba Chamberlain, who promptly allowed two runs (one earned) without retiring a batter.

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Two of the Nationals League’s top teams will square off when the Washington Nationals take on the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series.

The series starts at Nationals Park, with Game 1 scheduled for Friday at 3:07 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

The Nationals ran away with the NL East crown to make the postseason for the second time in the last three years, as the team won an NL-best 96 games while tying for the league’s best home record (51-30). Beyond that, the Nationals offense ranked fifth in the NL in batting average (.253) and slugging percentage (.393), and fourth in home runs (152) and OPS (.714).

The Giants, meanwhile, are coming off an impressive win in the NL Wild Card Game, as they defeated the Pirates 8-0 behind a four-hit shutout from Madison Bumgarner.

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After coming up short against the Boston Red Sox in the 2013 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals entered the offseason with a very specific to-do list.

At the top of that list: adding a productive shortstop.

With the regular season in the books, it’s safe to say the Cardinals found what they were looking for in Jhonny Peralta.

The .222 batting average and four home runs from Cardinal shortstops in 2013 ranked 14th among all National League teams, while the duo of Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso combined for a dismal minus-0.2 WAR.

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Two of the American League’s top teams will square off when the Los Angeles Angels take on the Kansas City Royals in the American League Division Series.

The series starts at Angel Stadium, with Game 1 scheduled for Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on TBS.

The Angels ran away with the AL West crown to make the postseason for the first time in the last four years, as the team won an MLB-leading 98 games while also posting the game's best home record (52-39). Beyond that, the Angels offense ranked third in the AL in batting average (.259), fourth in slugging (.406) and OPS (.728) and tied for fourth in home runs (155) with the White Sox and Tigers.

Meanwhile, the Royals are coming off a dramatic win in the AL Wild Card Game, as they defeated the A’s 9-8 in 12 innings in front of an electric crowd at Kauffman Stadium.

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The 2014 MLB postseason continues Wednesday with the Pittsburgh Pirates set to host the San Francisco Giants in the National League Wild Card Game (8:00 p.m. ET, TV: ESPN).

Pittsburgh captured the top NL wild-card spot to secure its second consecutive postseason berth, finishing two games back of the division-winning St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

San Francisco is returning to the playoffs for the third time in the last five years after tying the Pirates in the wild-card race and finishing six games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.

The Pirates clinched home-field advantage by winning the regular-season series against the Giants 4-2, as they took two of three games in both of their meetings. Overall, they outscored the Giants 29-23.

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Having a breakout season is a challenge for most players. Pulling it off in the postseason, when playing time is limited and every next play could potentially determine the season, is another story.

However, every year there are players who do just that, as they go from little-known prospects or under-appreciated veterans to playoff heroes and household names seemingly overnight.

With the playoff games set to begin Tuesday night, it’s time to preview some of the players who appear primed for a breakout performance this October.

Here’s a look at the biggest potential breakout stars for the 2014 postseason.

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The 2014 MLB postseason begins Tuesday, with the Kanas City Royals set to host the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game (8:07 p.m. ET, TV: TBS).

Kansas City captured the top AL Wild Card spot to secure its first postseason berth in 29 years, and came within one game of the division-winning Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.

Oakland is returning to the playoffs for the third straight year after finishing one game back of Royals in the Wild Card.

The Royals won the regular-season series against the A’s, 5-2, taking two of three games in Oakland during their first meeting (Aug. 1-3), and then winning three of four at Kauffman Stadium (Aug. 11-14).

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With the regular season coming to an end in a matter of days and the postseason set to begin next week, every playoff team will soon be forced to make difficult decisions regarding its roster.

The number of players a team can roster will drop from the 40 previously allowed in September back to the standard 25 next month. As a result, teams will craft their postseason rosters based on their own strengths as well as the perceived weaknesses of their upcoming opponent.

Many of baseball’s top rookies have a realistic chance of cracking their team’s postseason roster this year, though there will be even more players denied the opportunity to play in October.

Here are five rookies who could carve out huge roles in the 2014 postseason.