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A look at the ALCS matchup between the Orioles and Royals

Brad Brach, Buck Showalter
Orioles Manager Buck Showalter, who is replacing reliever Brad Brach, has been successful in the use of the Baltimore bullpen.
(Patrick Semansky / AP)

Game 1: Friday, 5 p.m. PDT

Kansas City (Shields, 14-8, 3.21) at Baltimore (Tillman, 13-6, 3.34)

Game 2: Saturday, 1 p.m. PDT

Kansas City (Ventura, 14-10, 3.20) at Baltimore (Chen, 16-6, 3.54)

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Game 3: Monday, 5 p.m. PDT

Baltimore (Norris, 15-8, 3.65) at Kansas City (Vargas, 11-10, 3.71)

Game 4: Tuesday, 5 p.m. PDT

Baltimore (TBA) at Kansas City (TBA)

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Game 5: Wednesday, 1 p.m. PDT

Baltimore (TBA) at Kansas City (TBA)

Game 6: Oct. 17, 5 p.m. PDT

Kansas City (TBA) at Baltimore (TBA)

Game 7: Oct. 18, 5 p.m. PDT

Kansas City (TBA) at Baltimore (TBA)

Baltimore Orioles lineup

Pos.; Player; Batting; HR; RBIs

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RF; Nick Markakis; .276; 14; 50

LF; Alejandro De Aza; .252; 8; 41

CF; Adam Jones; .281; 29; 96

DH; Nelson Cruz; .271; 40; 108

1B; Steve Pearce; .293; 21; 49

SS; J.J. Hardy; .268; 9; 52

3B; Ryan Flaherty; .221; 7; 32

C; Nick Hundley; .233; 5; 19

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2B; Jonathan Schoop; .209; 16; 45

Kansas City Royals lineup

Pos.; Player; Batting; HR; RBIs

SS; Alcides Escobar; .285; 3; 50

RF; Nori Aoki; .285; 1; 43

CF; Lorenzo Cain; .301;5; 53

1B; Eric Hosmer; .270; 9; 58

DH; Billy Butler; .271; 9; 66

LF; Alex Gordon; .266; 19; 74

C; Salvador Perez; .260;17; 70

2B; Omar Infante; .252; 6; 66

3B; Mike Moustakas; .212; 15; 54

Preview

Everyone had this at the beginning of the season, right? Surprising division series sweeps by the Orioles and the Royals thrust the details into the spotlight: speed, defense and the art of the bullpen change.

Both teams have also hit well and been bolstered by solid starting pitching.

The Orioles had the most home runs in the league during the regular season; the Royals had the fewest. Each team has four in the postseason. Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz is batting .500 in the playoffs with two home runs. So is Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Opposing hitters are batting .203 against the Royals and .218 against the Orioles. The Royals play excellent defense, and the Orioles do, too.

The Orioles have a more potent lineup, and center fielder Adam Jones hasn’t even gotten on a roll yet. First baseman Steve Pearce continues to be a pleasant surprise.

The Royals have the better rotation. James Shields wasn’t at his best against in a wild-card win over the Oakland Athletics or against the Angels, but Kansas City won both of his starts. Yordano Ventura and Jason Vargas were brilliant against the Angels’ dangerous lineup. The Baltimore rotation, headed by Chris Tillman, is more pedestrian.

One of the more interesting matchups will be the Royals’ late-game strategy against Orioles Manager Buck Showalter’s bullpen maneuvers. What the Royals’ speed does is put pressure on relievers to get strikeouts. Kansas City also has a surprising knack for late-inning home runs, but Showalter has been a master of situational pitching changes. The Royals have won three of four playoff games in extra innings, so this matchup could be key.

During the regular season, Kansas City won four of seven games against Baltimore. That seems about right.

Pick: Royals in seven.


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