Both are coming off sweeps in their respective division series, both are riding high off improbable regular season runs and both boast rabid fan bases hungry for a taste of the World Series.
But starting with Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Friday night in Orioles Park at Camden Yards, only one team will bring their city one step closer to a title that has eluded them for a combined 60 years.
The Kansas City Royals enter their first LCS game since winning the 1985 World Series, while the Baltimore Orioles end a 17-year drought following unsuccessful repeat appearances in 1996 and 1997. The Orioles last championship came in 1983.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost will send righty starter James Shields to the mound. The 32-year-old earned his first postseason victory in six years just five days ago, clinching the Royals series-victory over the Los Angeles Angels with six strikeouts and two earned runs over 6.0 innings of work. During the regular season Shields was tied for the Royals lead with 14 wins and totaled a team-best 180 strikeouts. Two of those wins came against the Orioles.
The Orioles will counter with 13-game winner and righty Chris Tillman, who posted the first postseason victory of his career in Game 1 of the division series against Detroit. Tillman would surrender two earned and strikeout six Tigers over five innings of work in the 12-3 victory that led to the sweep. Tillman also won his only start against the Royals in the regular season, pitching a complete-game shutout.
The matchup for both pitchers is very unique, with Shields facing the hardest, longest hitting lineup in the AL and Tillman staring down the speediest small-ball lineup.
The Orioles led the Major Leagues with 211 home runs, 40 of which came from All-Star DH Nelson Cruz, and were ranked in the top 10 in runs scored and team batting average. Cruz continued his stellar regular season with two more home runs against the Tigers for five RBIs and 12 total bases.
In contrast, the Royals hit 95 home runs during the regular season, by far the lowest in both leagues. But they generated runs with 153 stolen bases, 15 better than the next closest team, and were fourth in the Majors with a .263 team batting average. Yet the Royals earned a two-game lead over the Angels with home runs in extra innings from third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Looking at each squad’s bullpen, neither has an overwhelming advantage. They were tied for the AL-lead with 53 saves thanks to Royals closer Greg Holland and Baltimore’s Zach Britton, both of whom have earned two more saves in the postseason and let up one run between them.
Start Time: Friday, 8:07 p.m. EST
TV Channel: TBS
Live Online Stream: Watch a live stream on TBS here
Prediction: Orioles over Royals, 5-3