On Deck: ALCS

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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: Two surprises here, as Kansas City and Baltimore were really nowhere on anyone's radar to be here back in April, and one of the teams (the Royals) weren't even there in August, when it appeared their flirtation with a postseason appearance was dying more and more b

Past 2014 Meetings: The Royals won the season series 4-3, but the teams haven't played since mid-May.

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Pitching Matchups: Friday — James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34); Saturday — Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (16-6, 3.54); Monday — Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.71) vs. Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65); Tuesday — Jeremy Guthrie (13-11, 4.13) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23); Wednesday* — Shields vs. Tillman; Friday* — Ventura vs. Chen; Saturday* — Vargas vs. Norris

*If necessary

What's Hot: Eric Hosmer carried the Royals' offense through the ALDS sweep over the Angels, hitting .400 with a double, two homers and four RBIs. Speaking of power, which the Royals displayed very little of in the regular season, Mike Moustakas showed up, as well, hitting two homers against the Angels. The biggest reason the Royals are still alive? That bullpen. Greg Holland had two saves in the three ALDS games, and Wade Davis was the best setup man in baseball this year. In the postseason, the bullpen is just as, if not more, important than your rotation, and the Royals are loaded in the 'pen.

Much like with the Rangers in 2011, Nelson Cruz is putting his team on his back when it matters most. The Orioles slugger, who led MLB in homers this year, hit .500 in the Orioles' three-game sweep of the Tigers that saw them beat three AL Cy Young winners. In those three games, Cruz had two homers and five RBIs. Bud Norris tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his start in the ALDS.

What's Not: Royals leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar hit just .214 in the three games against the Angels. Four Royals starters hit under .200 in the series, including DH Billy Butler, who was 0-for-9 in the series but did have three walks.

Chen gave up five runs on seven hits in just 3 2/3 innings his last time out against the Tigers. Adam Jones, who was Robin to Cruz's Batman this season, was just 2-for-11 in the ALDS with no extra-base hits and no RBIs.

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