Angels hope to keep speedy Royals off basepaths

Angels hope to keep speedy Royals off basepaths

ANAHEIM -- The Angels have accepted that the Royals run.

They dance off first, steal second and swipe third, turning a single into a double when they're not even at the plate. They distract, pressure and mesmerize at the same time, forcing pitchers to account for the players not holding the bat. If the Royals have their way, stolen bases turn into stolen runs, which turn into stolen victories.

But the Angels know the Royals can't steal first base.

Tasked with shutting down the Majors' leading team in stolen bases (with 153 in the regular season), Game 1 starter Jered Weaver has a simple plan to slow the Royals: "Try to keep them off the bases, I think," Weaver said.

Kansas City's high-flying running game took center stage in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night, when the Royals tied a postseason record with seven stolen bases in a 12-inning, 9-8 win over the A's.

Five of those steals turned into runs as the Royals erased a four-run deficit in the eighth and ninth innings and a one-run deficit in the 12th to advance to the AL Division Series, which begins at 6 PT on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video
"They have some difference makers on the basepaths, not just some team speed," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the club's workout on Wednesday. "They have difference-makers. You have to pay attention to some things. So we'll do what we can do. Obviously, with that much team speed, obviously they're going to put it to use and we're going to have to contain it the best we can. But it's a big part of their offense."

After their workout, Angels catchers stayed behind to work on throws to second and third.

As a team, the Angels have thrown out 27 percent of would-be basestealers, equaling the league average. Chris Iannetta, who is expected to get the majority of time behind the plate, has nabbed 21 of the 70 (30 percent) potential basestealers who have ran against him.

Oddly enough, the Angels lead the AL with 251 runner bases added (the total number of bases given up on passed balls, wild pitches and stolen bases) but are also tied for second in the AL with 51 runner kills (the total number of baserunners thrown out).

But the Royals aren't just your average team on the basepaths. They run often, and they run very successfully.

Despite attempting a stolen base an MLB-high 189 times during the regular season, Kansas City was only caught stealing 36 times, its 81 percent success rate the second-highest in the AL. By comparison, the Angels were caught 39 times and stole 81 bases (68 percent).

"We control what we can control," Iannetta said. "We're just trying to get guys out. They're going to be guys that get on base. They're going to be guys that steal. That's fine, just play our game."

Against the speedy Royals, that game may consist of the pitchers' quicker slide steps toward the plate (which Iannetta described as "the name of the game"), varied times holding the ball on the mound and pickoff throws to first base.

Even with Weaver -- who relies on offspeed pitches rather than a sizzling fastball -- on the mound, Iannetta said the Kansas City running game doesn't affect the way he calls a game.

"We're not going to let them disrupt us," Iannetta said. "We're not going to let them take us off our game. We know what makes us our best, we're going to stick with that and roll with it. We trust our pitching, we trust our bullpen, we definitely trust our offense."

But for Iannetta and the Angels, what happens on the bases comes back to what happens in the batter's box.

"How many opportunities will you have to do that?" Iannetta said. "They played a long game. They had 15 hits and a lot of guys on base. If they have four or five hits, don't have as many guys on base, they don't steal nearly as much."

Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.