O's game blog: It's Tillman against Shields in Game 1 of the ALCS

In the first 17 years there was a Championship Series in each league, starting in 1969, there were only three years (1975, 1981 and 1982) when neither the Orioles nor Royals played for the pennant. They just never played against each other. That changes tonight when the Orioles host the Royals in Game 1 of the 2014 American League Championship Series. The Orioles host the first two games before the scene shifts to Kansas City. The Orioles won 96 games to take the AL East and then swept Detroit 3-0 in the Division Series. Kansas City won 89 games, won the wild card game over Oakland and then swept the Angels in the Division Series. tillman-presser-wide-ALCS.jpgOn the mound tonight, it's Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA) facing right-hander James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA), who will be starting for the third time in five playoff games. Counting his Game 1 win over five innings against Detroit, Tillman is 9-4 with an ERA of 2.42 over his last 22 starts, allowing three earned runs or fewer 21 times. The Orioles are 12-1 in his last 13 starts and are 25-10 when he starts this season. When Tillman took the mound on May 16 at Kauffman Stadium, he owned a career ERA of 9.00 against the Royals, but that night he pitched a complete-game five-hit shutout on 117 pitches. Now, in five career starts against K.C., Tillman is 2-2 with an ERA of 6.21 and he's allowed eight homers in 29 innings. It will be interesting to see how much the Royals run on Tillman tonight. He has allowed just two stolen bases in 13 tries the last two years. He is among the toughest to steal against in the game. Will the Royals challenge Tillman? I asked Kansas City manager Ned Yost about that at his press conference today. "We'll play our normal game, but our normal means we just don't get on base and take off," Yost said. "We do a tremendous amount of studying the opposition. We look for keys on pickoff moves and deliveries to home plate. We study the percentage of pitches on when is a high percentage time to go. "Tillman is tough. They attempted just four steals on him all year long. Like (Yordano) Ventura, they tried twice on him all year. We pick our spots, try to be real successful when we do it and most of the time we are." Big Game James, as Shields is known, pitched well in the second half for the Royals. He went 5-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star Game. Shields gave up four runs over five innings in the wild card game against Oakland and then he got the win, allowing two runs over six innings in Game 3 against the Angels as Kansas City completed the sweep. So Shields is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in the 2014 playoffs. In eight career postseason starts, the right-hander is 3-4 with a 4.96 ERA. A 16th-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 2000, Shields made two starts versus the Orioles this season, going 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA. In 26 career starts against the Orioles, Shields is 11-7 with an ERA of 3.52. He is 7-2 with a 3.81 ERA in 13 career starts at Camden Yards. Kansas City won the season series, going 4-3 against the Orioles and outscoring them 26-18. The Orioles lead the all-time series 260-202 and have a record of 59-36 versus the Royals at Camden Yards. Can Nelson Cruz continue his hot playoff hitting tonight? Cruz went 6-for-12 with two homers and five RBIs in the ALDS. In 12 career games in the Championship Series, Cruz is batting .357 (15-for-42) with five doubles, eight homers and 18 RBIs. So that is 13 career extra-base hits in 12 career ALCS games.

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