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View from the other side: KC Royals questions for Max Rieper of Royals Review

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Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, we start the ALCS with the Kansas City Royals. If you were thinking it is a long time since the Jays won the World Series, the last time for the Royals was 1985. Back then George Brett led the team and they beat the Jays in the ALCS. We were up 3-1, but lost 3 in a row.

The Royal finished with the best record in the AL at 95-87.

Offensively they scored 4.47 runs a game, 6th in the AL. Pretty good considerin their ballpark. They don't have the power the Jays have, just three batters with more than 20 home runs, Kendrys Morales (22), Mike Moustakas (22) and, Buck and Pat's favorite player, Sal Perez (21).

They were third best in the league in runs allowed per game, at 3.96, slightly better than the Jays 4.14. Their bullpen has been very good, their relievers have a 2.72 ERA. Starters a 4.34 ERA.

Baseball Reference has Lorenzo Cain as their most valuable player, with a 7.2 WAR, a terrific defensive center fielder and a good number 3 hitter, batting .307/.361/.477 on the season.

I set off some questions to Max Rieper, head guy at Royals Review.

That was a pretty amazing comeback in Game 4.  When they overturned the call at third (I'll admit I think the out for being a millimeter off a bag is a kind of stupid thing, but if they are going to call things that way, they ought to learn to be consistent about it, and give us the same call) I figured it was over. Did you think the series was over?

I think I was one of the few fans that hadn't quite given up yet. It wasn't that I thought they would come back, it was that it didn't make much sense to me to write their obituary until the last out was recorded. It was an amazing, thrilling comeback, I think perhaps only overshadowed by the fact that we had just seen them perform a similar miraculous comeback in a do-or-die playoff game just one year ago. But that makes it all the more remarkable that they were able to do this in back-to-back years. It is probably just a weird fluke thing, but the fact this team relies so much on making contact and putting the ball in play and using their speed makes makes me wonder if that approach is more conducive to a big rally than relying on a couple of big home runs..

What do Royals fans think of our old friend Alex Rios?

Alex Rios has been a punching bag in Kansas City for most of the season and for good reason. He got off to a good start, but was hit in the hand by a pitch in early April and missed the next two months. When he returned he was dreadful for most of the season, not just offensively, but defensively he seemed lackadaisical at times. Stop me if you've heard this before. He got things going a bit in September, but in October he has had a few clutch hits, validating Ned Yost's patience in him. Still, I think a lot of Royals would rather see him benched in favor of either Jarrod Dyson or Paulo Orlando, or a combination of the two. But Alex Rios will almost certainly start every game, and I hope his hot hitting continues a bit longer.

What would you say mangers Ned Yost's strengths and weaknesses are? What do Royals fans think of him?

Ned Yost was probably two innings away from getting fired, or at least having Royals fans call for his head. But the Royals stormed back in the Wild Card game last year and made their run and everything changed. Now Ned gets standing ovations when he walks into area restaurants and he may very well have a statue of his likeness standing at Kauffman Stadium someday. Its remarkable.

Ned still buys into old school hokum every once in awhile, like when he puts Alcides Escobar in the leadoff spot despite a terrible on-base percentage because they win games with him there. He is loyal to certain players to a fault, playing guys like Alex Rios, Omar Infante, and Jeremy Guthrie far too long into the season despite those three showing they are not useful big league players this season.

On the other hand Ned has learned to adapt his way of thinking, such as when he evolved to have a quick hook in the playoffs last year. The fetish for small ball he gets accused of is overblown, and the Royals bunted and stole far less this year because the offense was much improved to the point that small ball was not necessary. But Ned's biggest strength seems to be how he handles the clubhouse. I'm not a huge believer in clubhouse chemistry, but I'd rather have it than not and the Royals seem to get along great, even through adversity such as when every other team seemingly wants to get in a brawl, or when you face a four-run deficit in the eighth inning of a deciding playoff game.

Do you think we'll have a return of the bad blood from earlier in the season? Should Josh Donaldson practice his ducking from pitches up and in? Will the fun police be out if there is an epic bat flip?

I think there will be some chippiness between the two teams. The Royals have said they don't like that Blue Jays hitters lean so far out over the plate and will seek to work inside to keep them from extending their arms and driving the ball. That is going to lead to some pitches Jays hitters will find too close for comfort which could lead to some testiness. You would think with such high stakes no one would be foolish enough to intentionally throw at a hitter or charge the mound after an unintentional plunking, but both teams are so intense you never know. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

Who is your guess for Royal of the series?

Eric Hosmer was ice-cold in the Astros series until the Game 4 rally when he singled and later homered to put the game away. With the only Toronto lefty being David Price, I would look for Hosmer to have a big series. The Royals will need some power to keep up with the Jays, and Hosmer is one of their better power hitters, but he can be a frustratingly streaky hitter. Hopefully he is beginning to warm up and he can start hitting like he did in last October's playoffs.

Who are the Royals using for closer and setup men? How confident are in their ability to close out a close game?

Wade Davis replaces Greg Holland, who is out for the year after Tommy John surgery last week. Davis probably represents an improvement over Holland, as Davis has been about the nastiest pitcher in the league over the last two seasons. But moving him to the closer role creates a bit of a void in middle relief. The Royals will continue to keep All-Star Kelvin Herrera as the seventh inning guy and instead move former Phillies closer Ryan Madson into the eighth inning role. Madson has been a great comeback story this year, having not pitched in the big leagues since 2011. But he has been terrific with a killer changeup and I think Royals fans are very confident about their bullpen going into the ALCS.

Thanks Max