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  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014
    Twins decline Burton's contract option
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Minnesota Twins paid right-hander Jared Burton a $200,000 buyout and declined the option on his 2015 contract.

    • Burton, who was scheduled to make $3.6 million next year, pitched in 68 games this past year for the Twins and posted a 3-5 record with three saves and a 4.36 ERA in 64 innings.

      The 33-year-old pitcher spent the first five seasons of his major league career with the Cincinnati Reds before going to the Twins in 2012.

  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014
    Same stage, new uniform for Giants' Peavy
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jake Peavy earned a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox last year.

    • The right-hander will try to move closer to another championship when he starts Wednesday in Game 2 of the World Series for the San Francisco Giants against the Kansas City Royals.

      Peavy was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts for the Red Sox this year before the Giants acquired him in a July 26 trade. He turned his season around with San Francisco, going 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts.

      "Getting back here is the world," Peavy said of pitching in the World Series. "When you win one, as I was so fortunate to be able to last year, you would think that would quench you. It actually made it worse. We talked about that a lot in Boston this year. You really can't settle for anything less, and nothing else is acceptable.

      "You want something so bad, you achieve it, and you can't put into words how bad your want more. So it's a fun time for me. I'm going to exhaust every option (Wednesday) night to try to find a way to beat Kansas City. It's going to be really tough.

      "They're certainly on a great run. They're playing good baseball and playing with a lot of confidence. We all know when a team's playing with confidence, they're a dangerous team."

      While the Red Sox finished last in the American League East this year, Peavy went on to reach the postseason again. He threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in a win over the Washington National in the National League Division Series, and he gave up two runs in four innings in a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series.

      "It's been a blessing, first off, to be thrust into these situations when you have wanted nothing but this, and I can truly say that," Peavy said before the Giants won Game 1 of the World Series 7-1 over the Royals.

  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014
    Royals' Ventura ready to bring the heat for Game 2
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura, who starts Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday for the Kansas City Royals against the San Francisco Giants, did not always hit 100 mph with his fastball.

    • "When I was signed at 17, I looked around and I weighed 120 pounds more or less," the 23-year-old Dominican Republic native said Tuesday. "I saw other kids that were bigger than me, and some were throwing harder, some weren't. But I always believed if I could get bigger that I could continue to build arm strength.

      "So it was just a short year later that I went from maybe 87 to what I remember being 93 miles an hour. And then to begin the (Dominican) Summer League with the Royals team I was with, began to build. A year later, it felt like it was 95.

      "It was just kind of a year-by-year thing where I continued to increase. In 2010, I was in Arizona in the Fall League and I hit 100 for the first time in a start. So I think that's obviously a moment where I felt I had a special ability to be able to pitch and throw with that kind of velocity."

      Kansas City right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who will start Game 3 on Friday, remembers when Ventura made his big league debut last September.

      "Yordano came in last year guns a blazing," Guthrie said. "His talent was evident from the very first start he made with us. I think the most impressive thing to those who were watching, teammate or opposing teams, was the level of command he had with above-average pitches.

      "When you watch him, you realize it's not just 100 miles an hour that gets people out, but he has a very, very sharp curveball and one that anybody would hope to have in the repertoire. He has an excellent changeup. That's a weapon for him, that when he unleashes it will only make him better."

      After a three-start trial in September 2013, Ventura became a fixture in the Royals' rotation this year, going 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA.

      In the postseason, Ventura threw seven innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series, and he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Championship Series. He also was touched for two runs in one-third of an inning in a relief appearance during Kansas City's AL wild-card win over the Oakland A's.

  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014
    Bumgarner, Giants cruise in World Series opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This is October ball, not an August game.

    • In the World Series opener, San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner did not pitch the way he did in August against Kansas City, and Royals right-hander James Shields certainly did not match his performance from Aug. 9, when he shut out the Giants on four hits.

      Bumgarner allowed three hits over seven innings, and Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer in the first as the Giants toppled the Royals 7-1 Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series.

      Bumgarner's major-league-record postseason road scoreless streak was snapped at 32 1/3 innings in the seventh when catcher Salvador Perez homered into the Royals' bullpen. Bumgarner, who lost to the Royals on Aug. 8, when he yielded four runs on seven hits, retired 12 batters in a row before Perez's two-out blast.

      "It's tough not to pay attention to a streak when you've got it going," Bumgarner said. "I don't care. I'm not here trying to set records and keep streaks going, but you do know about it. But tonight, that was the last thing on my mind. We're up 7-0, so I'm just trying to compete and go after guys and be aggressive.

      "Perez is a big, strong kid. It was a pretty good pitch."

      Bumgarner had not allowed a playoff run on the road since Brian McCann's solo home run on Oct. 11, 2010, at Atlanta. Bumgarner gave up one run, walked one and struck out five Tuesday.

      "He was on top of his game, hitting sports, a good fastball going, but his secondary pitches were good, too," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

      The Royals won their first eight playoff games this year and 11 straight dating to 1985, but they were overwhelmed by the Giants, who are trying to win their third World Series in five years. The winner of Game 1 has won 69 of the 109 World Series (63.3 percent), including 15 of the past 17.

      "We didn't expect to come in here and sweep the San Francisco Giants," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They swung the bats really well. Bumgarner, he was dynamite. Man, was he good tonight."

      Pence began the night 0-for-11 against Shields, but the right fielder homered in the first with third baseman Pablo Sandoval aboard, then doubled off Shields to lead off the fourth.

      Shields was shaky from the beginning, and the Giants took advantage to score three runs on five hits in the first, highlighted by Pence's two-out, two-run homer.

      "It wasn't my night," Shields said. "My fastball was up in the zone in the first inning."

      Center fielder Gregor Blanco, a former Royal, began the San Francisco first with a single to shallow center. Catcher Buster Posey's one-out single put runners on the corners. Sandoval doubled down the right field line, scoring Blanco, but Posey was out at the plate trying to score from first. Sandoval's 11 postseason doubles are a club record, and he extended his streak of reaching base to 24 consecutive postseason games.

      Pence, a 2014 All-Star who played in all 162 games, homered to center on a full-count pitch, providing the Giants with a 3-0 advantage. Pence, who hit a puny .074 with two RBIs in the final 14 regular-season games, has reached base safely in 14 straight postseason games.

      "It's a definitely a good feeling to come out and play the way we did here," Pence said. "It was a lot of days before both teams played. I think Blanco's leadoff at-bat really was amazing. Not only that first inning, but also the way Madison came out and pitched the way he did, getting us in pretty quick innings. It settles you into the ballgame and makes it feel pretty good."

      The Royals loaded the bases in the third but came away empty against Bumgarner, who struck out shortstop Alcides Escobar and right fielder Nori Aoki for the first two outs.

      "Those strikeouts situations, we were going for them and trying to keep them off the board," Bumgarner said. "That's nice. That is one of my favorite things to be able to do in baseball is to work through a situation like that one."

      Third baseman Mike Moustakas, who doubled in the inning, said, "When you've got a guy like that with runners in scoring position and nobody out, those are important runs that you've got to find ways to push across. We just didn't get it done."

      First baseman Eric Hosmer grounded out to end the inning.

      "We can't leave runners in scoring position on base especially against a guy like that," Hosmer said. "We've got to cash in."

      Shields did not record an out in the fourth inning.

      Pence led off with a double down the left field line and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Belt walked, and Morse's RBI single finished Shields, who was replaced by left-hander Danny Duffy.

      Pinch hitter Juan Perez's sacrifice bunt moved Belt and Morse up 90 feet. Duffy, who had not pitched in 19 days, then walked shortstop Brandon Crawford and Blanco to bring Belt home, putting the Royals in a 5-0 hole.

      Shields, who can become a free agent after the World Series and is known as "Big Game James," retired only nine of the 16 batters he faced and was charged with five runs on seven hits, a walk and a wild pitch in three-plus innings. In four 2014 playoff starts, Shields has allowed 15 runs and 28 hits in 18 innings for a 7.50 ERA.

      The Giants added two superfluous runs in the seventh, which included second baseman Joe Panik's run-producing triple and an RBI single from Sandoval. The San Francisco third baseman collected multiple hits for the fifth time in 11 playoff games this year.

      "We saw the way other teams faced their pitching staff," Blanco said. "They were rushing and swinging at pretty much everything. We just needed to make (Shields) throw strikes. I told myself if I got on base I was going to be aggressive."

      NOTES: INF Jayson Nix was added to the Royals' World Series roster in place of rookie INF Christian Colon, who was on the AL Championship Series roster. Nix was last on the roster for the wild-card victory over the Oakland A's. ... Royals manager Ned Yost said RHP Jeremy Guthrie would start Friday and LHP Jason Vargas on Saturday. ... Giants veteran RHP Jake Peavy and Royals rookie RHP Yordano Ventura will start Wednesday.

  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014
    Five things we know heading into World Series Game 2
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Behind Hunter Pence's bat and Madison Bumgarner's left arm, the San Francisco Giants cruised to a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.

    • Here are five things we know about the World Series heading into Game 2:

      --Pence finally figured out James Shields. The San Francisco right fielder came into the World Series 0-for-11 all-time against Shields. He hit a two-run home run in the first, then led off the third with a double and came around to score the fourth run off Shields. The three runs the Giants scored in the first inning gave Bumgarner a comfortable cushion, and the lefty coasted through seven innings.

      "When you've got Madison on the mound, even when it's 0-0, you still feel very confident," Pence said. "We have all the confidence in the world with Bumgarner on the mound, no matter what the score is."

      --Bumgarner knows how to pitch in the postseason, especially on the road. He extended his playoff road scoreless streak to a major-league-record 32 2/3 innings before giving up a solo home run to catcher Salvador Perez in the seventh..

      "You know what, I felt pretty good," Bumgarner said. "It was just about going out and making pitches and executing. I know that's a boring answer, but for me, that's all it is."

      Manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner's postseason success away from AT&T Park, "Some things are hard to explain in this game. I can't tell you anything that would make sense of it, but he's been pitching well at home, too."

      --The Giants are seeking to become the 11th team in the past 12 years to win the World Series after winning the opener. The only team since 2003 that lost the first game and went on to win the World Series was the 2009 New York Yankees, who dropped the first game against the Philadelphia Phillies but came back to win the series 4-2.

      San Francisco won the first game of each series on the road this postseason, including a wild-card game victory over the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

      "It's huge to be able to win that first game in the series," Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco said. "That puts pressure on the other team. We've got to go out tomorrow and keep playing baseball and try to win the second game. If we can do it, we can add more pressure."

      --The Royals must respond to a loss for the first time since Sept. 27, when they fell to the Chicago White Sox in the penultimate game of the regular season. A day earlier, Kansas City clinched a spot in the postseason.

      "I can speak for everybody in this clubhouse: We're not worried about it," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "We're going to go out tomorrow and play the same game for whatever got us here. We're not concerned about it. We're not happy about it. We've got another game tomorrow.

      "(Kansas City's Game 2 starter Yordano Ventura) throws 100 (mph). The guy has an electric arm with a plus curveball, plus everything. He can go out and dominate a lineup. He's a confident kid, going out there having that swagger. We feed off of him."

      --The Kansas City bullpen endured its longest stint in the postseason, amassing six innings in relief of James Shields. With regular starter Danny Duffy pitching three-plus innings and reliever Tim Collins pitching two, the Royals' bullpen is still in good shape.

      Duffy, who was pitching for the first time since Oct. 2, walked two of the first three batters he faced, forcing in a run, but then he retired eight in a row.

      "I was really happy with his outing," manager Ned Yost said. "First inning in the World Series, you're a little amped up and you've got to come out and get settled in. Once he got settled down, (he) did a nice job."

      Duffy wound charged with two runs on one hit and three walks.

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014
    World Series notebook: Royals comfortable with Nix
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jayson Nix is with his fourth organization -- the Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals -- this season after he was given the pink slip by the first three.

    • He hit .154 in 18 games with the Phillies to begin the season, .272 in 55 games with the Rays' Triple-A Durham club and .111 in 14 games with the Pirates. The Royals claimed him off waivers Aug. 28, and he went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in seven games with Kansas City. His Kansas City highlight was a sacrifice fly off Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander on Sept. 19.

      Nix, however, will end the year on the Royals' World Series 25-man roster. In the only change of the Royals' roster from the American League Championship Series, Nix was added, while rookie Christian Colon was dropped in a swap of infielders.

      "Because of the National League (rules in effect in San Francisco), we're more apt to probably double-switch in some spots, and you quite frankly like Nix's defense a little better at third," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Nix and Colon are very solid second basemen. They both play a solid short, but we just felt a little more comfortable with Nix at third.

      "You look at it, Christian's more of an offensive option and Nix is more of a defensive option. Breaking it down and looking at all of our scenarios, especially in the National League, we decided to go with the defensive option."

      --Right-hander Jake Peavy has done more than just solidify the San Francisco Giants' rotation since being acquired from the Boston Red Sox.

      "He really has impacted our clubhouse," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "His experiences and his knowledge really has, I think, just ramped up the intensity and the focus on these guys.

      "Jake, as you know, when he plays, when he pitches, he's all on. I think leadership can come by example, which he does in the way he plays, but also in that clubhouse. He's vocal, too. Not just in a meeting or whatever, but he'll do a lot of one-on-one stuff. He's a guy I appreciate because he'll step in the breach and he'll say something."

      --Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, a Dominican Republic native who will start Wednesday, is a Pedro Martinez disciple.

      "Pedro has always been that player for me from the Dominican that I learn from and grow from," Ventura said with teammate Jeremy Guthrie acting as his interpreter. "I speak with him more or less every other day at this point. Pedro always encourages me to be myself and to treat every game just like I always have. No game is more important, but to go out there relaxed and do my pitches and be myself. So that's the most impactful player from my native country."

      NOTES: Royals manager Ned Yost said RHP Jeremy Guthrie would start Game 3 Friday at San Francisco, while LHP Jason Vargas would be the Game 4 starter. LHP Danny Duffy, who made 25 starts, will be used out of the bullpen. ... San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy won four pennants as a manager, three with the Giants and one with the San Diego Padres. Every other manager to have at least that many pennants is in the Hall of Fame. Bochy's teams have won nine consecutive postseason rounds since 2010. ... Royals relievers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined for a 1.05 ERA, allowing three runs in 25 2/3 innings, in the playoffs entering the World Series. ... RHP Bret Saberhagen, who was the MVP of the 1985 World Series and shut out the Cardinals in Game 7, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014
    MLB roundup: Royals complete Series rotation
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Kansas City Royals are going with the same starting rotation in the World Series that was effective in their American League Championship Series four-game sweep.

    • Royals manager Ned Yost announced Tuesday before Game 1 in Kansas City against the San Francisco Giants that right-hander Jeremy Guthrie will start Game 3 and left-hander Jason Vargas will pitch Game 4 on Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco. Guthrie will face San Francisco's Tim Hudson in Game 3 and Vargas will oppose the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong in Game 4.

      In Guthrie's only postseason appearance, he gave up one run in five innings in a no-decision during the Royals' Game 3 win over the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. In 32 regular-season starts, he was 13-11 with a 4.13 ERA. Vargas has started twice in the playoffs and posted a 1-0 record with a 2.38 ERA. In 30 regular-season starts, he went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA.

      ---The Royals made a minor last-minute change to their World Series roster before Game 1 on Tuesday, adding Jayson Nix in place of Christian Colon.

      The swap of utility players is the only alteration to the Royals' roster from the American League Championship Series.

      The 32-year-old Nix was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in August. He played in seven games for the Royals in the final month of the regular season. In 41 games overall this season, the well-traveled veteran batted .120 with one home run and four RBIs. Colon, 24, is a rookie called up by the Royals in July. He was on the ALDS and ALCS roster and logged two plate appearances in the postseason.

      ---The Philadelphia Phillies signed right-hander Jerome Williams on Tuesday to a one-year, $2.15 million contract for 2015 that could be worth up to $4 million with incentives.

      The Phillies claimed Williams off waivers in August after he struggled with the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. In nine starts for the Phillies, Williams proved effective, posting a 2.83 ERA and finishing the season with a 6-7 record and a 4.77 ERA in 37 appearances as a starter and reliever with the three teams.

      In nine major league seasons with seven different teams, the 32-year-old Williams has a 48-54 record with one save and a 4.40 ERA in 192 games, including 128 starts.

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014
    Phillies re-sign Williams
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Philadelphia Phillies signed right-hander Jerome Williams on Tuesday to a one-year, $2.15 million contract for 2015 that could be worth up to $4 million with incentives.

    • The Phillies claimed Williams off waivers in August after he struggled with the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.

      In nine starts for the Phillies, Williams proved effective, posting a 2.83 ERA and finishing the season with a 6-7 record and a 4.77 ERA in 37 appearances as a starter and reliever with the three teams.

      In nine major league seasons with seven different teams, the 32-year-old Williams has a 48-54 record with one save and a 4.40 ERA in 192 games, including 128 starts.

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014
    Royals finalize rotation for World Series
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Kansas City Royals are going with the same starting rotation in the World Series that was effective in their American League Championship Series four-game sweep.

    • Royals manager Ned Yost announced Tuesday before Game 1 in Kansas City against the San Francisco Giants that right-hander Jeremy Guthrie will start Game 3 and left-hander Jason Vargas will pitch Game 4 on Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco.

      Guthrie will face San Francisco's Tim Hudson in Game 3 and Vargas will oppose the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong in Game 4.

      In Guthrie's only postseason appearance so far, he gave up one run in five innings in a no-decision during the Royals' Game 3 win over the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. In 32 regular-season starts, Guthrie was 13-11 with a 4.13 ERA.

      Vargas has started twice in the playoffs and has a 1-0 record with a 2.38 ERA. In 30 starts during the regular season, he went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA.

      Kansas City's starters have logged a 3.80 ERA in the postseason.

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014
    Royals sub Nix for Colon on Series roster
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Kansas City Royals made a minor last-minute change to their World Series roster before Game 1 on Tuesday, adding Jayson Nix in place of Christian Colon.

    • The swap of utility players is the only alteration to the Royals' roster from the American League Championship Series.

      The 32-year-old Nix was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in August. He played in seven games for the Royals in the final month of the regular season. In 41 games overall this season, the well-traveled veteran batted .120 with one home run and four RBIs.

      Colon, 24, is a rookie called up by the Royals in July. He was on the ALDS and ALCS roster and logged two plate appearances in the postseason.

  • Monday, October 20, 2014
    World Series notebook: Giants hold experience edge
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The San Francisco Giants have been here before, winning the 2010 and 2012 World Series.

    • The Kansas City Royals have not been to this biggest baseball stage since 1985, when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. That also was the last time the Royals were in the playoffs, so most of their players are postseason neophytes.

      Advantage Giants.

      "I can imagine any time you've done something more than your opponent, it's going to make it easier to understand the weight of the situation," Royals eighth-inning setup reliever Wade Davis said. "I think we're all pretty comfortable where we are right now. We've played in some pretty big games and beat some really good teams."

      The Royals are 8-0 in postseason play, sweeping the Los Angeles Angels and the Baltimore Orioles after rallying to top the Oakland Athletics in extra innings in the wild-card game.

      Both teams worked out Monday afternoon with the World Series set to begin Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander James Shields will start for the Royals against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

      While the Royals have the home-field advantage, that does not faze the Giants, who are 16-5 on the road in postseason play since 2010.

      "That's tough to explain," Bumgarner said. "It definitely has worked that way for us. I don't know the numbers, but it does seem like we're not really affected much by being on the road. Obviously, you would like to be at home. Home-field advantage is a little bit of an advantage. But we're here, and we're playing the cards we were dealt."

      While Bumgarner will be working on his normal four days of rest, Shields has not pitched in 11 days.

      "Resting and some bullpen action, just trying to repeat my delivery in my bullpen sessions," Shields said. "I think this late in the year almost too much throwing is too much, so I've just kind of rested by body up for (Tuesday)."

      --Jarrod Dyson is the Royals' fourth outfielder and deluxe pinch runner, but he has become a go-to guy for the media.

      After the Royals won the first two American League Championship Series games in Baltimore, he predicted the series would not return to Camden Yards, and it did not.

      "It's not a time for a prediction," Dyson said Monday. "I can't give you guys no headlines, man. I'm sorry. That's my new name now, 'Headline.' (My teammates) gave me a new name because I give you guys a headline, talking crazy."

      Dyson stole third base on his own in the ninth inning of the wild-card game against Oakland and scored the tying run on right fielder Nori Aoki's sacrifice fly. If he had been thrown out, the Royals probably would have been eliminated.

      "That was a gutsy move by me. If I get thrown out right there, the whole city is ready to kill me," Dyson said with a laugh.

      --Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum, a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, has not pitched since Sept. 28 and has not started since Aug. 23.

      Bochy said Lincecum had a good bullpen session Sunday.

      "We need to have him ready because you don't know what's going to happen in the game," Bochy said. "He's ready to go and he's healthy. It's an old adage, all hands on deck, and he's one of them. If it's the right spot, he'll be out there."

      Bochy said Lincecum, who went 12-9 this season with a 4.47 ERA in 33 games, including 26 starts, is mentally handling his situation "great."

      "Really been upbeat about it, he understands," Bochy said. "He's done so much, including this year. You go back to '12 and he was a weapon in the bullpen, and he could be that this series. I feel bad for him that he didn't get to pitch against Washington or St. Louis because I think a lot of Timmy.

      "There was never any thought of not having him on this roster. Not just having him on the roster, but the fact that he could help us at some point."

      NOTES: Bochy said Michael Morse would be the Giants' designated hitter for the series opener, with Travis Ishikawa, who hit the game-winning home run in the series clincher against St. Louis, playing left field. Bochy also said the Giants' World Series roster will remain unchanged from the group that won the National League Championship Series. The 25-man rosters must be set Tuesday. ... The Royals' Ned Yost said he is a completely different manager than when he managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-08. "I think I've learned to let my players be themselves," Yost said. "Because I have great coaches, I think I listen a lot more than I did back then. I'm pretty hard-headed, a little more flexible, and use the tremendous experience we have in our coaching staff to my benefit and our benefit." ... This is the second time in the wild-card era (since 1995) two wild-card teams advanced to the Fall Classic. The previous time was 2002, when the Anaheim Angels beat the Giants in seven games. ... This is the second time two teams reached the World Series after recording fewer than 90 victories during the regular season (excluding the strike-shortened 1981 season). The Giants went 88-74, while the Royals finished 89-73. In 1918, the Red Sox (75-51) beat the Cubs (84-45) in the World Series.

  • Monday, October 20, 2014
    Cardinals' Jay to have wrist surgery
    By The Sports Xchange

    St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay will have arthroscopic surgery this week to repair a damaged left wrist, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Monday.

    • Recovery time is expected to be 6-8 weeks, so he should be ready for Spring Training.

      Jay has been dealing with the problem since July, and cut his workouts short because of the pain. But it did not affect his production. He hit .325 in August and September and finished with a .303 average with three home runs.

      Jay was the only Cardinals player to hit better than .300 during the regular season, and he led the team in hitting during the playoffs, batting .483 (14-for-29). He had a .500 average during the National League Championship Series.

  • Sunday, October 19, 2014
    Report: Red Sox may trade Cespedes
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Boston Red Sox may look to trade outfielder Yoenis Cespedes this offseason, according to the Boston Globe.

    • The Red Sox reportedly expressed reluctance to re-sign Cespedes to a long-term deal after acquiring him from the Oakland A's in the late July trade involving left-hander Jon Lester.

      Cespedes, 29, has one year left on his four-year, $36-million deal he signed with the A's before the 2012 season. He is due $10.5 million next season.

      This year, Cespedes batted .260 with 22 home runs and 100 RBIs. In 51 games with the Red Sox, he batted .269 with five homers and 33 RBIs.

      Cespedes has a career batting average of .263 with 71 home runs and 262 RBIs in 416 major-league games over three seasons.

  • Sunday, October 19, 2014
    Giants fan swaps home run ball for Series tickets
    By The Sports Xchange

    A man who gave back the home run ball hit by Travis Ishikawa that sent the San Francisco Giants to the World Series received something special in return:

    • Tickets to Game 3 of the World Series in San Francisco against the Kansas City Royals.

      Frank Burke, the owner of a transmission repair business and a lifelong Giants fan, said he wanted Ishikawa, who hit the home run, to have the ball.

      "I believe in karma," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I didn't hit that ball ... if anybody's going to have that ball in their game room or trophy case, it's going to be the guy who hit it."

      Burke handed the ball over to Ishakawa in the clubhouse area after the game and received a signed bat. Asked by the team whether he wanted anything else, Burke requested World Series tickets. The Giants didn't think that was possible.

      The next day, though, the Giants called and said they had four tickets for Game 3. Burke wants to take a friend, Greg Leutza, who is battling cancer.

      The tickets and memorabilia are nice, Burke said, but that's not what's most important.

      "Just the memory for me and my buddy, that's priceless," he said. "That meant more to me than anything else will."

  • Saturday, October 18, 2014
    Royals to start Shields, Ventura in Series
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Kansas City Royals announced Saturday that James Shields and Yordano Ventura will start the first two games of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

    • Shields is expected to face Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner in Game 1 on Tuesday. Ventura will likely face San Francisco's Jake Peavy in Game 2 on Wednesday.

      The first two games of the series are in Kansas City.

      Shields is 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA in three postseason starts. Bumgarner is 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four playoff starts.

      Ventura has no decisions with a 4.85 postseason ERA in three games -- two starts. Peavy is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in two postseason starts.

  • Saturday, October 18, 2014
    Longtime Orioles infielder Roberts retires
    By The Sports Xchange

    Injury-plagued infielder Brian Roberts is retiring after 14 seasons in the major leagues.

    • The 37-year-old Roberts played for the New York Yankees this past season before he was released in August. He spent the first 13 years with the Baltimore Orioles but struggled with injuries during the latter stages of his career.

      With the Yankees in 2014, Roberts batted .237 with five home runs, 21 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 91 games and 317 at-bats.

      "It was just kind of my time," Roberts told the Baltimore Sun. "There were numerous reasons that I felt like I couldn't play at a level that I was accustomed to and wanted to play at if I continued to play. I always said that I wasn't going to be the guy that tried to hang on as long as I could."

      A two-time All-Star with the Orioles, Roberts finished his career with a .276 batting average, 97 home runs, 542 RBIs and 285 stolen bases in 5,531 at-bats and 1,418 games. He led the American League in doubles twice (50 in 2004, 56 in 2009) and in stolen bases once (50 in 2007).

      A herniated disc and strained abdominal muscle limited Roberts to 91 games in 2010. The following year, he suffered a concussion on a headfirst slide into second base in May that kept him out the rest of the season and until June 2012. A torn labrum on July 1 ended the 2012 season.

      In 2013, offseason sports hernia surgery and then another surgery for a torn hamstring forced him to miss 79 games.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Astros' new coaches include Hillman, Pettis
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Houston Astros named former Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman as their bench coach and added former Texas Rangers third-base coach Gary Pettis to manager A.J. Hinch's staff on Friday.

    • Pettis will serve as the third base coach and handle baserunning and outfield play for the Astros.

      The Astros also announced that Dave Hudgens will be the team's new batting coach and Rich Dauer will become the first-base coach and infield instructor. Hudgens held the same job with the New York Mets.

      Hinch is keeping pitching coach Brent Strom and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson from last year's staff.

      Pettis replaced Pat Listach, who was informed this week that he was not being retained. Listach spent one year with Houston.

      "I'm very disappointed," Listach told MLB.com. "I understand it's a business, but I'm disappointed."

      Listach managed in the Chicago Cubs' minor league system before joining the Washington Nationals as their third-base coach. He returned to the Cubs as a bench coach and a third-base coach and then spent one season as the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor-league infield coordinator before going to Houston.

      Listach's playing career spanned from 1992 to 1997. He was named National League Rookie of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1992.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    MLB roundup: Shields expected to get Game 1 start
    By The Sports Xchange

    Manager Ned Yost remained evasive on who the Kansas City Royals starting pitcher would be for Tuesday's opening game of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

    • Then Yost tipped his hand Friday before a Royals' workout.

      "Shields threw a great game against them here, shut them out," Yost said.

      If anybody but "Big Game" James Shields starts the first game it would be shocking.

      Shields was acquired in a Dec. 9, 2012, trade with Tampa Bay for moments like this. He has been the Royals' Opening Day starter the past two years. He started the wild-card game against Oakland. He was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels and started the American League Championship Series opener against Baltimore.

      Shields threw his only complete-game shutout this season against the Giants on Aug. 9. He limited San Francisco to three singles and a double, while striking out five and walking one. Of the 111 pitches he threw, 73 were strikes.

      --Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next season -- "definitely."

      Los Angeles' new president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, addressed a number of issues at his introductory news conference at Dodger Stadium. Mattingly's future topped the list.

      “We’re very aligned on a lot of things philosophically and have thoroughly enjoyed those conversations,” he said. “We’re going to get together next week and I’ll look forward to building that relationship.”

      --Pat Listach will not be back next year as the Houston Astros' third-base coach.

      The Astros let Listach know this week that he will not be joining new manager A.J. Hinch's staff. Listach spent one year with Houston.

      "I'm very disappointed," Listach told MLB.com. "I understand it's a business, but I'm disappointed."

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    'Big Game' James Shields expected to start Game 1
    By The Sports Xchange

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Manager Ned Yost remained evasive on who the Kansas City Royals starting pitcher would be for Tuesday's opening game of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

    • Then Yost tipped his hand Friday before a Royals' workout.

      "Shields threw a great game against them here, shut them out," Yost said.

      If anybody but "Big Game" James Shields starts the first game it would be shocking.

      Shields was acquired in a Dec. 9, 2012, trade with Tampa Bay for moments like this. He has been the Royals' Opening Day starter the past two years. He started the wild-card game against Oakland. He was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels and started the American League Championship Series opener against Baltimore.

      Shields threw his only complete-game shutout this season against the Giants on Aug. 9. He limited San Francisco to three singles and a double, while striking out five and walking one. Of the 111 pitches he threw, 73 were strikes.

      --Yost went to Dublin (Calif.) High and Chabot Junior College in Hayward, Calif., before the New York Mets drafted him in 1974.

      "I grew up in the Bay Area. I grew up a Giants' fan, so it's going to be special," Yost said. "I've got the utmost respect for [Giants manager] Bruce Bochy.

      "The San Francisco Giants are a team a lot like us. They are a team that scraps ball games out. They've got great pitching. Their bullpen is dynamic. Their defense is very solid. It's going to be a fun series."

      --The middle three games of the series will be played at AT&T Park under National League rules, which means the Royals will lose designated hitter Billy Butler with the pitchers hitting.

      "The difference now is every series we've played up to the point has been an American League series," Yost said. "Now this is going to be a four-game American League series and a three-game National League series. We're looking at all of our options (for the roster).

      "It's a totally different game. You pinch hit a lot more. You need a little more versatility. You'll have the ability to double switch, which will help. You've got to have pinch hitters lined up. If you pinch hit three times over the course of a game, that could happen easily. If you're pinch hitting four times, you're in extra innings."

      Yost managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-08, so he is familiar with the National league approach.

      "It's a fun style," he said. "I've never really managed two styles in one series. It's a different type. There are a lot more things that are involved. The double switch comes into play. Pinch hitting comes into play. When do you pinch hit this guy? When do you pinch hit that guy? There's a lot more strategy-wise in a National League game.

      "You can't try to get (starters) deeper into the game because sometimes situations just don't allow it, depending on the score. You may come into the fifth or sixth inning with runners on second and third. Even though your starter is throwing great, you've got to take the opportunity to score there.

      "It's a lot easier in the American League because you don't have to worry about that. ... In the National League, score dictates, innings dictate, base runners dictate. A lot more goes into it in a National League game."

      --The Royals had a brief workout lasting about an hour on Friday.

      Afterward left-hander Danny Duffy threw a two-inning simulated game, and relievers Louis Coleman and Aaron Crow, who were not on previous playoff rosters, each threw one inning. The World Series rosters have yet to be set.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Banister gets three-year deal to manage Rangers
    By The Sports Xchange

    New Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister signed a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year on Friday.

    • No financial terms of the deal were released by the team, which announced his hiring on Thursday as the franchise's 18th full-time manager in history.

      Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said he started with 40 candidates and pared the list to three finalists, including interim manager Tim Bogar, before settling on Banister.

      "What stood out is his presence," Daniels said of Banister. "He is an impressive guy to meet. You can understand how he can command a room. The passion for winning and getting to know people as a person before the player stood out the most."

      The 50-year-old Banister inherits a Rangers team that finished last in a loaded American League West this year and abruptly lost popular manager Ron Washington, who resigned due to personal reasons late in the season.

      However, the next Texas manager has faced much greater challenges in his life than turning around a baseball team.

      Banister, who was the Pittsburgh Pirates' bench coach the past four seasons, successfully battled bone cancer during his high school days in Houston. He was also temporarily paralyzed from the waist down for a few weeks. He was playing catcher and suffered a broken neck when he was involved in a home plate collision.

      He overcame all that to play professionally as a catcher in the Pirates' organization.

      Despite being a 25th-round draft pick in 1986 from the University of Houston, Banister carved out a seven-year professional career because of his work ethic and baseball smarts. He had only one at-bat in the major leagues but finished with a 1.000 batting average -- hitting a single off Atlanta's Dan Petry in a 1991 game.

      The Pirates were so impressed with Banister that they kept him in the organization after his playing days ended. He spent more than two decades as a coach at both the major league and minor league levels as well as being a manager in the farm system and the organization's minor league field coordinator.

      Banister was also so well-regarded by the Pirates that he was one two finalists when current manager Clint Hurdle was hired after the 2010 season.

      Many in the organization said privately that the only reason Banister did not get the job is because it would have been a tough sell to the fans to hire an internal candidate when the Pirates were coming off 18 straight losing seasons at the time.

      In many ways, Banister is the perfect manager to blend the new-age and old-school ways of baseball.

      He has a strong background in player development and respects the role scouting plays in an organization. Yet he also understands the importance of statistical analysis and has watched first hand as sabermetrics have helped the Pirates go from the laughingstock of pro sports to back-to-back postseason appearances.

      "I want to thank the Texas Rangers for giving me this opportunity," Banister said. "I am elated to have the chance to make an impact on the organization and I look forward to getting started on that task.

      "I also want to express my gratitude to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last 29 years. My experiences in that organization have prepared me well for this new opportunity and I thank all of the individuals who have poured into my life along the way."

      Banister is a prototypical tough Texan who can be stern when needed, but is extremely caring and will quickly build trust with both his players and others in the organization.

      "If a team asked me for a recommendation on Banny, I'd give a whole-hearted one," Hurdle said in September.

      Daniels knows Hurdle well. Hurdle served as their bench coach in 2010, his season between managing jobs with the Colorado Rockies and Rangers.

      Daniels apparently listened to what Hurdle had to say. He chose Banister over Bogar and Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash.

      "When you interview for any position, unfortunately you're only going to hire one guy," Daniels said. "And by definition you're going to disappoint others involved. It's not a situation of Tim or anybody else, quote unquote losing. It's really a situation where Jeff won the job and felt like he was the best fit."

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Mattingly gets approval from new Dodgers president
    By The Sports Xchange

    Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next season -- "definitely."

    • Los Angeles' new president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, addressed a number of issues at his introductory news conference on Friday at Dodger Stadium. Mattingly's future topped the list.

      “We’re very aligned on a lot of things philosophically and have thoroughly enjoyed those conversations,” he said. “We’re going to get together next week and I’ll look forward to building that relationship.”

      Friedman said he already has had two conversations with the Dodgers skipper.

      There had been reports that Friedman might try to bring longtime friend Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon to Southern California to replace Mattingly. Friedman quickly quashed that rumor.

      "I have a tremendous personal relationship with Joe. He’s a friend of mine. We have a really good professional relationship as well," Friedman told the Los Angeles Times. "That being said, Joe is now working with [Rays President] Matt Silverman and baseball operations people there. I'm excited about working with Donnie.

      "I'm going into it with the mind-set that we're going to work together for a long time. ... I'm looking forward to working with Donnie for a long time."

      Friedman, a 37-year-old former Wall Street analyst, does plan to hire a general manager. CBSSports.com says the most likely GM candidate is former Arizona and San Diego GM Josh Byrnes.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Matheny won't second-guess using Wacha
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN FRANCISCO -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny knew he would be roasted if his decision to use right-hander Michael Wacha with the season on the line Thursday night backfired on him.

    • He did anyway. And he was.

      Matheny was left to defend his decision.

      "We like Michael's stuff there," he said shortly after Wacha gave up a season-ending, three-run home run to the Giants left fielder Travis Ishikawa that gave San Francisco a clinching 6-3 win in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. "We put him in a tough place. That's on me."

      Asked a second, third and even fourth time why he used a regular-season starter who hadn't pitched since Sept. 26 in a situation like that when he had so many other options, Matheny understandably got defensive.

      "I liked him out there. I never don't like having him on the mound," he said. "We liked his stuff. We saw the (speed) gun light up and were excited.

      "Michael is a great pitcher. I can't wait to see him pitch next season when he's fully healthy. He has a great career ahead of him."

      Wacha started 19 games for the Cardinals during the season and posted a 5-6 record with a 3.20 ERA. He spent two months on the disabled list because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder before returning in early September. Wacha didn't last longer than five innings in any of his four September starts, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA during the month.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    NLCS MVP Bumgarner shares glory with teammates
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner proudly accepted the Most Valuable Player trophy for the National League Championship Series on Thursday after the San Francisco Giants' 6-3, World Series-clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

    • Truth be told, he wasn't quite sure he earned it.

      Bumgarner pitched the Giants to a 3-0 win in St. Louis to start the series, but he stood to lose Game 5 on Thursday until pinch hitter Michael Morse tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with a home run.

      "We had so many guys play a big part in every game," Bumgarner said. "I'm thankful and blessed to have the opportunity for this. I don't know that I'm 100 percent deserving of it. There's plenty of guys that deserve it, too."

      San Francisco's ace left-hander finished the series with a 1-0 record and 1.72 ERA. He struck out 12 and walked three.

      Those are nice numbers, but so are these:

      --Left fielder Travis Ishikawa ended the series with a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5. Ishikawa hit .385 in the series and had a team-leading seven RBIs.

      --Third baseman Pablo Sandoval reached base at least once in all five games, extending his club-record streak to 23 consecutive postseason games. He batted .400, led off the winning rally Thursday with a single, and he smacked three doubles, giving him a franchise-record-tying 16 extra-base hits in his postseason career.

      --Left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt pitched in four of the five games, allowing one hit in 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game 5, coming on with the bases loaded and two outs in a 3-3 game in the top of the ninth inning. He induced pinch hitter Oscar Taveras to ground back to the mound, ending the threat and setting up the Giants' series-ending uprising in the bottom of the inning.

  • Friday, October 17, 2014
    Ishikawa blasts Giants into World Series
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN FRANCISCO -- Thanks to their left fielders, the San Francisco Giants are headed back to the World Series.

    • Injured Michael Morse hit a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the eighth inning, and his replacement, Travis Ishikawa, blasted a walk-off, three-run shot in the bottom of the ninth Thursday night, sending the Giants to their third World Series in five years with a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

      By virtue of their five-game win in the National League Championship Series, the Giants will move on to face the American League champion Kansas City Royals in the World Series. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Kansas City.

      "Just a gutty effort through all this, and I couldn't be prouder of these guys," champagne-drenched Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They just don't stop fighting."

      Giants general manager Brian Sabean said of his team, "They believed since day one. They are like a bunch of cockroaches. You gotta kill 'em all off. If you're going to get one, you gotta get 'em all."

      Morse, limited to pinch-hit duties in the series because of a strained left oblique, drew the Giants even at 3-3. In the ninth, his teammates immediately jumped on the Cardinals' third pitcher, right-hander Michael Wacha.

      Third baseman Pablo Sandoval greeted Wacha with a single. One out later, pinch runner Joaquin Arias advanced into scoring position when first baseman Brandon Belt drew a walk.

      Wacha, pitching for the first time in the postseason, fell behind the left-handed-hitting Ishikawa 2-0 before the Giants left fielder, acquired off waivers in April, turned on a fastball and lined it over the 25-foot-high wall in right field at AT&T Park for the game-winner.

      The homer was Ishikawa's first of the postseason and the first ever to end an NLCS.

      "I was looking fastball. I was just trying to be aggressive," said Ishikawa, a backup first baseman who started just four games in left field during the regular season.

      "When I first hit it, I thought it was going to be a walk-off hit, so I was throwing my hands up in the air. I remember hearing the crowd just going crazy. So my thought was: If this gets out, it's going to be fantastic."

      Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who had watched miscues in the field and a lack of clutch hitting put his team in a 3-1 series hole, was left to explain his decision to use a regular-season starter who hadn't pitched since Sept. 26 with the season on the line.

      "We like Michael's stuff there," he said. "We put him in a tough place. That's on me."

      Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, the third Giants pitcher, got the win after coming on to get pinch hitter Oscar Taveras to ground out with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, preserving a 3-3 tie.

      Affeldt's escape job completed a three-game Giants sweep in San Francisco, a stretch during which the San Francisco bullpen went unscored upon in 10 1/3 innings.

      "We had so many guys play a big part in every game," said NLCS Most Valuable Player Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' starting pitcher Thursday. "I'm thankful and blessed to have the opportunity for this. I don't know that I'm 100 percent deserving of it. There's plenty of guys that deserve it, too."

      Behind the strong pitching of starter Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals held a 3-2 lead through seven innings. However, the St. Louis ace was replaced by fellow All-Star Pat Neshek to start the eighth, and three pitches later, the game was tied.

      Morse provided the game-tying blow, belting a home run just inside the left field foul pole. The pinch-hit homer was the first in Giants postseason history.

      The Giants, who hadn't hit a home run in the first four games of the series, smacked three in the series clincher.

      "If there's one guy in that bullpen I didn't want to face this whole series, it was him," Morse said of the side-arming Neshek. "I just went up there and tried not to do too much. I wasn't trying to hit a home run, that's for sure."

      Neither starting pitcher got a decision.

      Reverting back to his 20-win form of the regular season after two shoddy starts in the playoffs, Wainwright limited the Giants to two runs on four hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

      After giving up a two-run homer to Giants second baseman Joe Panik in the third, Wainwright allowed only one more hit, retiring the last 10 men he faced.

      The decision to go to Neshek at that point was a no-brainer, according to Matheny.

      "He was done," Matheny said of Wainwright. "He's worked very hard. He did a nice job. That's an understatement. He was terrific."

      Bumgarner was almost as good. He pitched eight innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out five.

      Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams and catcher Tony Cruz belted fourth-inning home runs off Bumgarner, who briefly was given a one-run lead on Panik's homer.

      Sandoval and center fielder Gregor Blanco had two hits apiece for the Giants, who out-hit the Cardinals 7-6.

      Outfielder Jon Jay had two hits for St. Louis, which played the final three games without star catcher Yadier Molina, who sustained an oblique injury in Game 2.

      "We're not going to drop any excuses," Matheny said. "We'd have loved to have him in the series, but we didn't."

      NOTES: While Travis Ishikawa's blast was the first NLCS-ending homer, two World Series, three American League Championship Series, two NL Division Series and one AL Division Series ended with walk-off home runs. The New York Giants also famously won the 1951 NL pennant on Bobby Thomson's homer that ended a three-game tiebreaker series against the Brooklyn Dodgers that wasn't considered part of the postseason. ... The Giants were swept in a three-game series at Kansas City from Aug. 8-10 in the only regular-season meetings between the two World Series combatants. ... The Giants franchise will be making its 20th trip to the World Series, tops among National League teams. ... San Francisco's Game 5 starter, LHP Madison Bumgarner, earned National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors after going 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. He struck out 12 and walked three. ... St. Louis is 13-27 on the road in its NLCS history. ... The Cardinals finished the postseason with 15 home runs in their nine playoff games. The homers accounted for 21 of their 34 runs.

  • Thursday, October 16, 2014
    Free agent decisions could shape Orioles' offseason
    By The Sports Xchange

    The stunningly quick end to the Baltimore Orioles' season does not take away from the team's impressive performance in 2014.

    • The Orioles shocked the baseball world by running away from the American League East and sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the AL Division Series before getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the AL Championship Series.

      Manager Buck Showalter's team stunned everyone by succeeding despite missing three All-Stars -- catcher Matt Wieters (elbow surgery), third baseman Manny Machado (knee surgery) and first baseman Chris Davis (suspension).

      Now, the big question are how good the Orioles can be next year when everyone is back and what will that team look like.

      Designated hitter Nelson Cruz, right fielder Nick Markakis and left-hander Andrew Miller all are free agent this winter. The Orioles could make a play to bring back all of them.

      "It's about players and talent," Showalter said after the ALCS. "It's about players and doing the right thing consistently over a long period of time. The things that we overcame on paper, we didn't look at it like that. There's so many roads to cross to get here."

      There's no question that the Orioles built the foundation for a very good run. They possess hitting, power, pitching and defense. All of that showed up this year. But what also showed in the playoffs was Baltimore's lack of speed and ability to manufacture runs against tough pitching.

      The Orioles are going to have to decide whether they are happy with a power-laden lineup that can't move runners or if they should tweak the batting order to make it a bit more flexible. Teams that wait the three-run homer can struggle when the big blasts vanish, as evidenced by what happened against the Royals in the ALCS.

      "We (did) good things; they (did) better things than us," Cruz said. "They played better than us."

      The Orioles also need to think about their rotation. Right-hander Chris Tillman is slowly developing into an elite pitcher, but he struggled in the playoffs. The team still doesn't really have a top-notch, slump-stopping No. 1 starter. That hurt the Orioles a bit in the playoffs.

      Right-hander Kevin Gausman could grow into that. He started well for part of the season and was solid in long relief in the playoffs. He has the talent to possibly be a No. 1 -- as does right-handed prospect Dylan Bundy, who is getting closer to the big leagues.

      The Miller decision will affect the bullpen. If the Orioles get him back, he could be a setup man or even be the closer with left-hander Zach Britton shifting to a setup role. Britton had an outstanding season despite stumbling a bit in the playoffs, but bringing back Miller would give the Orioles options. However, retaining him might be too hard to do for financial reasons, as he will command big money on the open market.

      The Orioles must deal with a painful ending to a spectacular season, but they are turning their focus to 2015.

      "There's so many things that have to happen for you to get a chance at this," Showalter said, "so we'll start all over again."