An early look at the Orioles-Royals matchup in the ALCS

When the Orioles open the American League Championship Series Friday night at home versus the Kansas City Royals, both teams will have the underdog mentality that will make them each a version of "America's Team." Each is in need of a title. The Orioles last won the World Series in 1983, the Royals in 1985. But at least the Orioles have been to the postseason since 1983, playing in October in 1996, 1997 and 2012. The Royals beat St. Louis in the 1985 World Series. Since then, they've had four seasons where they've finished second. This year's Royals wild card team finished second for the first time since 1995, the year they were 30 games behind AL Central champ Cleveland. In one eight-year span, the Royals lost at least 97 games six times, including four out of five seasons when they fell into triple-digit losses. The Royals and Orioles play with contrasting styles: The Orioles led the American League in home runs with 211 while the Royals hit the fewest at 95. The Royals, though, led the AL with 153 steals while the Orioles had the fewest at 44. Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph has thrown out 40 percent of potential base stealers. Jarrod Dyson stole 36 bases to lead the Royals while Alcides Escobar had 31, Lorenzo Cain 28, Nori Aoki 28 and Alex Gordon 12. Gordon leads the Royals with 19 home runs. While the Royals aren't known for home runs, they have shown power in October. During the regular season, they hit one home run in extra innings. In October against the Angels, they had home runs by Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, who connected in extra innings to win the first two games of their Division Series. The Royals will run and play defense. Cain, acquired from Milwaukee in a trade for pitcher Zack Greinke, has shown his strong defensive range already in this postseason. He goes in all directions well. Both teams have good pitching that no one seems to know outside of James Shields. The Orioles' team ERA of 3.43 ranked fourth in the AL while the Royals' mark 3.51 was fifth. Shields leads the Royals with a 14-8 record and a 3.21 ERA. The Royals gave two of their best prospects, Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, to Tampa Bay to get Shields before the 2013 season. Shields has won 27 games in two seasons and will likely leave the Royals after the season via free agency. The Royals' other starters are former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and prospects Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy. No doubt Shields will start Game 1. Ventura is a kid who has never pitched this deep into a season, but he's handling the expectations well. And while the Orioles have a first-rate bullpen, the Royals do, too. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, as well as the closer, Greg Holland, combined for a 1.28 ERA this season. Another bullpen story for the Royals is lefty Brandon Finnegan, who was drafted out of Texas Christian this past spring, worked his way through the minor leagues and then made seven appearances in September to earn a spot on the playoff roster. The Royals were a powerhouse in the 1970s and 1980s with guys like George Brett, Frank White and Bret Saberhagen. They lost in the ALCS in three consecutive years from 1976-1978. Philadelphia beat Kansas City in the 1980 World Series and then the Royals lost again in the first round in 1981. They lost the 1984 AL pennant to Detroit.

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