The American League Championship Series, as advertised, has showcased a potent, high-scoring offense. The surprise? It's been the Kansas City Royals, not the Toronto Blue Jays, who've done the bulk of the mashing.
With a 14-2 drubbing of the Jays at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday, the Royals took a 3-1 ALCS lead. Kansas City will have a chance to finish off Toronto on Wednesday and punch a second straight ticket to the World Series.
If the Royals keep swinging it like they have been, they might not lose again this October.
That's an understatement. After Wednesday's deluge, the Royals have scored 58 runs this postseason, inlcuding 33 in the ALCS alone. (Yes, two of those runs came against Blue Jays infielder-turned-emergency pitcher Cliff Pennington, but they still count.) They pace the playoff pack in batting average and OPS, as well, and have clubbed 12 home runs.
In fact, they're on the verge of history, per ESPN's Stats & Info:
To put a finer point on it, Kansas City has been a juggernaut, which is a word many—including yours truly—previously attached to Toronto.
The Blue Jays, after all, are the team that led MLB in runs, dingers and a host of other offensive categories in the regular season. And they've got the fearsome sluggers, from Edwin Encarnacion to Jose Bautista to American League MVP hopeful Josh Donaldson.
The Royals were no slouches at the plate, finishing seventh in runs scored, but they hit the second-fewest home runs in the Junior Circuit.
Speed, defense and situational execution were supposed to be K.C.'s calling cards. So far, the high-scoring act is working just fine.
As befits the Royals, their attack has been balanced. Shortstop Alcides Escobar (15-for-36 with three doubles and two triples) has been a force at the top of the lineup. Second baseman Ben Zobrist (13-for-36 with four doubles and a home run) has supplanted Johnny Cueto as Kansas City's most important trade-deadline addition.
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who has gone from offseason castoff to bona fide basher, has hit four home runs and collected 10 RBI. Catcher Salvador Perez has three homers and five RBI. Outfielders Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Alex Rios have also gone deep, as has first baseman Eric Hosmer.
In short, the hits have come from everywhere, offering opposing pitchers few, if any, chances to catch their breath.
What's fueling this offensive outburst?
The Royals are very good at putting the bat on the ball and struck out fewer times than any big league club in the regular season.
That approach is serving them well in the playoffs, as Grantland's Ben Lindbergh highlighted:
[W]hen you watch the Royals foul off two-strike pitches and string together singles-based five-run rallies off pitchers like David Price, then switch channels and see the strikeout-prone Cubs swinging through the Mets' high-octane offerings, you might wonder whether contact makes K.C. unkillable.
Some of the Royals' ALCS success has come because of Toronto's poor pitching, of course. Ace lefty David Price, comeback kid Marcus Stroman and veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who took the loss in Game 4, have all looked dubious for the Jays.
But this is more than a pitching staff melting down. This is a lineup rising up. Kansas City has been more patient, drawing 24 walks in nine games after finishing dead last in the AL in that category in the regular season.
"They spoil a lot of pitcher counts, and they work the count back into their favor quite a bit," Dickey told reporters prior to Game 4, per MLB.com.
And they hit it when it counts, which is all that matters in the small-sample crucible that is the MLB playoffs.
The Royals came agonizingly close to a trophy last year before running into the Madison Bumgarner buzz saw. This time around, they appear determined to let no hurler stand in their way.
The Blue Jays aren't cooked yet. They came back from a 2-0 deficit against Texas in a best-of-five American League Division Series. And their bats could go off at any time, though they'll have to do it against Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez, who blanked them for six innings in Game 1 and will take the hill in the potential clincher Wednesday.
Right now, it'd be unwise to bet against hot-swinging Kansas City, which in Game 5 will face Marco Estrada, the same pitcher it tagged for three runs en route to a 5-0 victory in Game 1.
Whomever they face, the Royals keep making contact and, with increasing regularity, sending balls over the fence.
The ALCS hasn't played out as advertised, but so far, Kansas City's offense couldn't have drawn it up any better.
All statistics current as of Oct. 20 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.