On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every postseason series during the 2014 season.
The Teams: The Royals, without a doubt, have the support of all MLB fans without a dog in the fight. Around here, add in the area's hatred for the Angels, and we might as well be in Kansas City right now. The Royals roared back from a 7-3 deficit in the eighth inning to top another Rangers nemesis, the A's, in the AL Wild Card game. The Angels have the best record in all of baseball despite losing their ace a month ago, and it looks like their lineup is carrying their depleted pitching staff. But can it do that in a playoff series? We'll soon find out.
Past 2014 Meetings: The teams split a six-game series this season, with each team taking two of three at home, but they haven't met since the end of June when the Royals beat the Angels.
Pitching Matchups: Thursday — Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.71 ERA) vs. Jered Weaver (18-9, 3.59); Friday — Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20) vs. Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04); Sunday — James Shields (14-8, 3.21) vs. C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.51); Monday* — TBA vs. Weaver; Wednesday* — TBA vs. Shoemaker.
What's Hot: Nori Aoki has been the Royals' best hitter over the last month, batting .379 with six doubles, two triples and 10 RBIs. Eric Hosmer, whose big triple kicked off the Royals' 12th-inning rally on Tuesday night, leads the team with 12 RBIs over the last 25 games and is hitting .292 in that span. Shields and Ventura have been great over their past five starts, putting ERAs of 2.31 and 2.32, respectively, and averaging between six and seven innings per start.
Howie Kendrick is smashing lately, hitting .386 in his last 24 games with two homers and 19 RBIs, which is near a team-leading number. Mike Trout is making his postseason debut, hitting .274 over the last 25 games with a team-high five homers and 14 RBIs. Albert Pujols leads the Angels with 22 RBIs in that span. Shoemaker has been the Angels' best starter for quite some time, since Garrett Richards went down, and has a 2.45 ERA in his last three starts.
What's Not: In his last five starts, Vargas is 1-3 with a 6.57 ERA. Alex Gordon is batting just .185 over the last 25 games but he does have 11 RBIs in that time, second on the team behind Hosmer in that category.
Josh Hamilton is expected to be back in the starting lineup and hitting seventh after missing 21 of the last 22 games with one of his weird "Josh Hamilton injuries" and fellow former Ranger C.J. Wilson has posted a 4.76 ERA in his last six starts. Two young bats that carried the Angels' lineup at times this year, CJ Cron and Collin Cowgill are both struggling, hitting .209 and .191, respectively, over the last month.
Familiar Faces: Raul Ibanez began this season with the Angels before the 42-year-old slugger and postseason hero signed on with the Royals at the end of June. He's a nice bench bat with a good amount of "clutch" and power at the Royals' disposal.