Here is a look at the best-of-five American League Division Series between the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels.
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Thursday, at Los Angeles (9:07 p.m.); Game 2, Friday, at Los Angeles (9:37 p.m.); Game 3, Sunday, at Kansas City (7:37 p.m.); x-Game 4, Monday, Oct. 6, at Kansas City (TBD); x-Game 5, Wednesday, Oct. 8, at Los Angeles (TBD). (All games on TBS).
Season Series: Tied 3-3.
Royals: SS Alcides Escobar (.285, 3 HRs, 50 RBIs, 31 SBs), RF Nori Aoki (.285, 1, 43, 17 SBs), CF Lorenzo Cain (.301, 5, 53, 28 SBs), 1B Eric Hosmer (.270, 9, 58), DH Billy Butler (.271, 9, 66), LF Alex Gordon (.266, 19, 74, 12 SBs), C Salvador Perez (.260, 19, 70), 2B Omar Infante (.252, 6, 66), 3B Mike Moustakas (.212, 15, 54).
Angels: RF Kole Calhoun (.272, 17, 58, 5 SBs), CF Mike Trout (.287, 36, 111), 1B Albert Pujols (.272, 28, 105), 2B Howie Kendrick (.293, 7, 75), SS Erick Aybar (.278, 7, 68), 3B David Freese (.260, 10, 55), LF Josh Hamilton (.263, 10, 44, 89 games), DH C.J. Cron (.256, 11, 37), C Chris Iannetta (.252, 7, 43, .373 OBP).
Royals: LH Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.71, 128), RH Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20), RH James Shields (14-8, 3.21, 180).
Angels: RH Jered Weaver (18-9, 3.59 ERA, 169 Ks), RH Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04, 124), LH C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.51, 151).
Royals: RH Greg Holland (1-3, 1.44, 46/48 saves), RH Wade Davis (9-2, 1.00), RH Kelvin Herrera (4-3, 1.41), LH Brandon Finnegan (0-1, 1.29), RH Jason Frasor (3-0, 1.53), LH Francisley Bueno (0-0, 4.18), LH Scott Downs (0-2, 3.14), RH Aaron Crow (6-1, 4.12), LH Danny Duffy (9-12, 2.53 ERA, 113 Ks), RH Jeremy Guthrie (12-11, 4.13, 124).
Angels: RH Huston Street (1-2, 1.71, 41/44 saves in San Diego and Los Angeles), RH Joe Smith (7-2, 1.81, 15/19 saves), RH Kevin Jepsen (0-2, 2.63, 75 Ks), RH Cory Rasmus (3-2, 2.57, 6 late-season starts), RH Jason Grilli (1-3, 3.48), RH Fernando Salas (5-0, 3.38) , LH Hector Santiago (6-9, 3.75, 108).
The teams met only six times in the regular season, each taking two of three at home. ... They haven't met since June 29, when the Royals beat Los Angeles 5-4 to knock the Angels 5 1-2 games behind Oakland in the AL West. The Angels won the division by 10 games. ... Los Angeles has won eight of their last 11 meetings, including six of eight in Kansas City. ... The Angels have won 15 of the last 18 season series against the Royals, going 70-38 since 2002. ... Angels ace Weaver has dominated nearly every hitter in the Royals' lineup during their careers, allowing more than six hits to just one batter: former teammate Raul Ibanez. The 42-year-old slugger, 15 for 36 with four HRs against Weaver, was released by Los Angeles on June 21 and rejoined Kansas City nine days later.
Royals: After ending a 29-year postseason drought, the Royals continued their winning ways in the playoffs. They won the last three games of the 1985 World Series against St. Louis. So after their thrilling 9-8, 12-inning win over Oakland in Tuesday night's AL wild-card game, Kansas City has now won four straight playoff games. .... The Royals win with strong starting pitching, a stingy bullpen and daring on the basepaths. They swiped seven bags against the A's, including one that helped set up the tying run in the 12th inning. ... The Royals burned through all of their shut-down relievers against Oakland — Brandon Finnegan, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland. But with a day off Wednesday they should be rested and ready against Los Angeles.
Angels: Los Angeles streaked through the final months of the regular season and finished with the majors' best record at 98-64, earning home-field advantage throughout the postseason. ... The Angels are back in the postseason for the first time since 2009 with their sixth AL West title under manager Mike Scioscia. ... Los Angeles had the majors' most productive offense in the lowest-scoring big league season since 1981, plating 773 runs with a deep, balanced offense led by likely AL MVP Mike Trout, who will make his first postseason appearance. ... Trout led the majors with 115 runs scored, 84 extra-base hits and 111 RBIs, becoming the Angels' second RBI champion after current hitting coach Don Baylor, who did it in 1979.
—HAMILTON'S HEALTH: The Angels' $125 million slugger missed 21 of the last 22 games with various upper-body injuries, but will return to left field for the postseason. Scioscia must figure out how much to use Hamilton's inconsistent bat, which didn't provide a homer at the Big A all season long. Hamilton will ease into his return, batting seventh instead of his usual cleanup spot.
—SHORT ROTATION: Scioscia plans to use just three starting pitchers in the division series, gambling on short rest to shore up his injury-depleted rotation. Weaver pitches the opener, and rookie 16-game winner Shoemaker will take the mound in Game 2 after recovering from a strained oblique muscle. Inconsistent Wilson will start Game 3 in Kansas City, and Scioscia is confident Weaver can pitch well on three days' rest in Game 4.
—EXPERIENCE COUNTS: The Angels haven't been to the postseason in a half-decade, but they've got ample playoff experience on their roster. Pujols has two rings and that famed three-homer performance in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, while Freese was the MVP of the NLCS and the World Series with St. Louis just three years ago while setting the postseason record with 21 RBIs. Hamilton has appeared in three postseasons, while Weaver and Wilson have both pitched in the playoffs.
—TROUT'S TIME: The top young player in baseball is getting his first taste of October after an MVP-caliber regular season — even if it wasn't as statistically impressive as his first two major league campaigns. Trout grew up in New Jersey watching Derek Jeter's postseason presence for the Yankees, and it's time to see what he can do under the spotlight in Orange County.
—ROYALS HANGOVER: Their epic, emotionally draining win over Oakland took 4 hours, 45 minutes. By the time they boarded a plane, flew to Los Angeles and checked into their hotel, the sun was rising Wednesday. Will the quick turnaround hamper them in the series opener and beyond?
—MANAGERIAL MOVES: Royals manager Ned Yost made two highly questionable moves against Oakland, both of which backfired. He yanked Shields for rookie Ventura in the sixth inning, and that turned into a five-run outburst for Oakland. He also put on a bizarre delayed steal with lumbering DH Butler that resulted in the final out of the first inning.
—KARMA, BABY: The Royals believe this is their time. They were counted out most of the season, languishing below .500 on July 22. They were counted out again on Tuesday night, twice rallying against Oakland. Perhaps the same karma that won them Game 6 of the 1985 World Series — the infamous Don Denkinger game — has reared its head for a franchise that has suffered for decades.
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