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Angels blow best chance to beat Royals

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The Royals go up 1-0 by winning a game the Angels needed for insurance purposes.

Jeff Gross

The Royals are outclassed offensively in their ALDS match-up against the Angels. The Kansas City lineup just doesn't have the same depth, and they don't walk nearly enough to compensate for that in a station-to-station offense without any semblance of power. That's what made this Game 1 match-up so important to the Royals: they were using Jason Vargas, one of their weaker starting pitchers, and were doing so on the road against the best the Angels have to offer in Jered Weaver. Now, Kansas City is up 1-0 in this five-game series, and they're yet to use any of the rotation arms that could give them an advantage against the Angels. They even managed to sneak in a game-winning homer from an unlikely source in Mike Moustakas to do it.

Conversely, the Angels needed this game as much as a favorite can need to secure a Game 1 victory. Weaver was just about league-average this year, with a 101 ERA+, but he also managed to take all 34 turns in the rotation and compile 213 innings, for an average of 6-1/3 per outing. He wasn't supposed to be the only arm you could reasonably, dependably project to succeed in October for the Angels, but a series of unfortunate events -- Garrett Richards' knee surgery, Tyler Skaggs' Tommy John, Matt Shoemaker's rib strain, C.J. Wilson's horrific second half -- have made that the case.

Shoemaker could be as useful as he was in the regular season, when he produced a 2.89 ERA and 5.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 120 innings as a starter, but he could also be off his game thanks to his next start being his first since the rib injury. Wilson has had positive moments in 2014, but almost all of them came before his July DL stint: opponents managed a .381 on-base against Wilson in his final 12 starts, and it helped result in an ERA of 4.85. Considering pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium, that figure is even uglier with context.

That's it for the playoff rotation, too: Hector Santiago is only good for five innings at a time, and the Angels bullpen isn't quite deep enough to make that work in conjunction with the risks associated with Wilson and Shoemaker starts. Winning Weaver's first start in a short series, a start against a Jason Vargas who scuffled in September and is historically a back-end innings eater, would have made the Angels' lives a lot easier over the next few days.

Instead, it's the Royals who get to feel as if they're in control, as they have Yordano Ventura and James Shields lined up for Games 2 and 3 against the aforementioned potential problem twins the Halos are tossing out there. Ventura posted a 125 ERA+ in 30 starts in his rookie season while averaging six innings per start, while Shields once again tied for the AL lead in starts while throwing 227 innings of 124 ERA+ ball. With the Angels' lineup, nothing is guaranteed for the Royals. Thanks to the Angels pitching, though, the same can be said for Los Angeles of Anaheim.

This series is a match-up of some of the best pitching in the playoffs against some of its top hitting. It's also a battle between the worst lineup in October and its worst rotation. It's difficult to predict who is going to come out on top in these battles over the next few days, but the Royals have to be feeling good after getting through one of the games they were expected to lose against the AL's top seed.