Royals' Bats Show KC Is More Than Just a Bullpen in Ousting Blue Jays in ALCS

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2015

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 23:  Ben Zobrist #18 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game six of the 2015 MLB American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 23, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Friday, the Kansas City Royals punched their second consecutive World Series ticket on the strength of closer Wade Davis, who picked up the win with a gutsy, rain-delayed, 1.2-inning performance.

So that's the obvious angle: The Royals win the pennant again thanks to their dominant, shutdown relief corps.

But that's too simplistic, and it misses an essential part of the picture. These Royals can hit, up and down the lineup. And it's their bats, even more than their bullpen, that propelled them to the Fall Classic this time around.

Just ask the Toronto Blue Jays, who were supposed to be the offensive juggernaut coming into the American League Championship Series. 

The Jays had their moments, including a pair of booming home runs by Jose Bautista in Game 6. But overall, it was the Royals who got the big knocks and put up the gaudy run totals.

The Royals outscored the Jays 38-26 in the ALCS, and they out-homered them 7-6, after Toronto paced all of baseball in both categories in the regular season.

And they did it with an enviably balanced attack. Really, that extends back to their division series win over the Houston Astros as well, when Kansas City scored 25 runs and hit eight dingers.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar has led the charge from atop the lineup, going 17-for-44 with three doubles, a pair of triples and nine runs scored in the postseason.

Alcides Escobar has been an October spark atop the lineup.
Alcides Escobar has been an October spark atop the lineup.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Ben Zobrist, who has supplanted Johnny Cueto as the Royals' most impactful trade-deadline acquisition, hit his second home run of the postseason in Game 6 and is hitting .326 overall.

Designated hitter Kendrys Morales has four home runs and 10 RBI in the playoffs after a Comeback Player of the Year-worthy campaign.

Catcher Salvador Perez, who is banged up as any everyday catcher would be this time of year, has four home runs. Eric Hosmer, Alex Rios, Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain have all gone deep. And Cain flashed his incredible wheels Friday, scoring from first on a Hosmer single in the bottom of the eighth with what proved to be the winning run.

The knocks are contagious, as Zobrist explained, per FSKC's Joel Goldberg:

Joel Goldberg @goldbergkc

Ben Zobrist on the Royals hot offense, top to bottom: "Everybody feels dangerous right now."

Yes, the nearly hour-long rain delay and, again, Davis' exemplary outing will be remembered as the stories of the game. 

The story of October, however, might well end up being K.C.'s lumber.

Sure, the Royals have flexed power in the playoffs after hitting the second-fewest home runs in the Junior Circuit. But what these Royals have done well from Opening Day is put the bat on the ball. They struck out fewer times than any club, and they're experts at making contact and letting good things happen, as they often do.

That high-contact approach is serving them especially well in the postseason, as Grantland's Ben Lindbergh outlined:

When 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

"I don’t think we've changed our approach," skipper Ned Yost said prior to Game 6, per Jeff Deters of the Topeka Capital-Journal. "We bunch together some hits and it looks really, really nice. And we've won some games because of it. That’s the type of offensive team we have."

The power is nice, in other words, but it's not essential. This team can also bleed you to death with a single here, a single there and a double over there. Add its disruptive speed, and you've got the makings of an unexpected, unorthodox juggernaut.

Lorenzo Cain has a postseason home run and scored the winning run in Game 6 of the ALCS.
Lorenzo Cain has a postseason home run and scored the winning run in Game 6 of the ALCS.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There will be plenty of time to parse the upcoming World Series matchup between the Royals and the NL champion New York Mets. For now, suffice it to say that New York's stable of power arms—Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard—will provide a worthy challenge for K.C.'s confident swingers. 

Kansas City's stellar 'pen, which boasts the lowest postseason ERA (2.85) of any team that advanced to the championship series round, is still a potent weapon, as is its defense, which rated as the best in baseball, per FanGraphs

But if the 2015 Royals succeed where the 2014 version came up agonizingly short, it could well be because they hit better and score more than everyone else.

You probably didn't see that coming, even if you're a diehard in a threadbare George Brett jersey. 

Then again, this is October, when expecting the unexpected is the name of the game. And when the Royals sure can swing it.

All statistics current as of Oct. 23 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.


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