And then there were four: The MLB playoffs marches on

photo courtesy of MCT Campus

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After a six-month regular season and the completion of the League Division Series (LDS) only four MLB teams will be playing this upcoming week. In the American League, the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals are both four wins away from reaching the World Series, while in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants will square off for a pennant once again.

The AL matchup is a surprise even for seasoned baseball fans.  Kansas City had not made the playoffs since 1985, while the Orioles last won their division in 1997. Both feats were accomplished this year, and each team swept their opponent in three games to advance to the ALCS. Although neither squad has much difficulty putting runs on the board, they do so in entirely different ways. Baltimore led all of MLB with 211 home runs this season, but stole fewer bases than anyone else (44). Meanwhile, Kansas City stole the most bases (153), but hit the fewest home runs (95). This clash of styles should make for a fascinating series, and it begins in Baltimore on Friday night.

While neither team playing for an AL title has much postseason experience, the matchup in the NL is overflowing with it. This will be the fifth straight season in which either the Cardinals or Giants play in the World Series. In this time, San Francisco won two championships in 2010 and 2012, while St. Louis won the World Series in 2011 and lost to the Boston Red Sox last year. Both squads are known for not scoring all that many runs, but getting big hits when it matters most. Possibly the two best catchers in MLB, San Francisco’s Buster Posey and St. Louis’ Yadier Molina, should play prominent roles in this series. Both teams feature one superstar starting pitcher. The Giants have the left-handed Madison Bumgarner, while the Cardinals have right-hander Adam Wainwright. This series will begin on Saturday night in St. Louis.

In baseball, the hottest team will often beat the best team, and that lesson was reaffirmed this year. The Angels and Nationals, who had the two best records this season, won only a single playoff game between them. The teams that beat them, Kansas City and San Francisco, had already avoided elimination in the one-game Wild Card playoff. This postseason also has featured its share of drama. Four games have gone to extra innings, including the 18-inning marathon between the Giants and Nationals on Oct. 4, and several others have gone down to the wire. As the stakes get higher, baseball fans everywhere eagerly await the excitement what lies ahead.