Surprising pairing at World Series

The 2014 Major League Baseball season is finally drawing to a close. Beginning tonight, Oct. 21, the National League champion San Francisco Giants will take on the American League champion Kansas City Royals in a best-of-seven showdown for baseball’s highest achievement.

Both teams arrive in the World Series somewhat unexpectedly, having entered the playoffs in wild-card spots and later defeating heavily favored opposition. In the American League, the Royals trailed the Oakland Athletics 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning in the wild-card game before rallying to win 9-8 on a Salvador Pérez walk-off single in extra innings. Making their first playoff appearance since winning the World Series in 1985, the Royals then swept AL West champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and AL East champion Baltimore Orioles to secure the American League pennant.

CAS senior Alex Nay, who is from Kansas City, described the scene in his hometown and the excitement of the fans.

“I actually was back in Kansas City this past weekend,” Nay said. “It’s electric. You have to understand, it’s not like we ever came close since ’85. Everyone was happy to just be in the playoffs. I don’t think anyone really expected them to get this far. We don’t have any superstars. Those are our Royals.”

Nay also called for people to rally to Kansas City’s cause.

“Seriously, how can anyone not love the Royals right now?” he said.

In the National League, the Giants cruised past the Pittsburgh Pirates in their wild-card matchup before eliminating the NL East champion Washington Nationals in four games. Battling NL Central champion St. Louis, San Francisco defeated the Cardinals in five grueling games. A three-run walk-off homer by Travis Ishikawa in the bottom of the ninth of game five clinched the National League pennant.

Tisch junior and Bay Area native Mickala Andres highlighted the Giants’ persistent underdog status.

“I feel like every year the fans doubt the Giants, but the team always seems to prove them wrong,” Andres said.

Both teams entered October with late season surges, securing wild card berths after tight races for the final playoff spots. Now they will play for October glory, each with different brands of baseball.

The Royals pride themselves on pitching and quickness. Led by ace James Shields and lights-out closer Greg Holland, Kansas City has stymied opposing batters all season long. The pitching staff was aided by timely offense from Alex Gordon, Norichika Aoki and Alcides Escobar, among others, bringing the Royals to within four wins of their first World Series title in 29 years.

The Giants feature a classic mix of big bats and powerful arms. San Francisco boasts a star pitcher of their own in Madison Bumgarner, with former Oakland A’s ace Tim Hudson and veteran Jake Peavy making key contributions to the pitching staff. The Giants are led offensively by catcher Buster Posey. With Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval providing additional power, San Francisco will be a tough test for the Royals’ pitching staff.

Each team will look to impose its will on the other. If the Giants are to win their third World Series title in five seasons, they will need to overwhelm the Royals’ pitchers and strike early and often. For the Royals to put the finishing touches on one of sports’ greatest Cinderella stories, they will have to find consistent offensive success against the Giants’ pitchers. This surprise championship matchup will not disappoint.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 21 print edition. Email Charles Surette at [email protected].