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3 things the Astros need to advance past Royals

KANSAS CITY -- One of the narratives of the American League Division Series between the Royals and the Astros is how similar the two teams are. They're both athletic and have good bullpens, so what has to give for the Astros to advance to the American League Championship Series? Here's a look a three key things the Astros need to advance:

1. Push the tempo: The Astros are an aggressive team on the bases that too often runs into outs, but with their combination of speed and power, they can create havoc if they can get the guys at the top of their order -- specifically Jose Altuve and George Springer -- on base and unleash them. The Astros led the league in stolen bases this season, while the Royals' caught stealing percentage was in the middle of the pack among Major League clubs.

2. Get the clutch hits: Kauffman Stadium is a big park -- its size could go a long way in neutralizing the Astros' big bats. That being said, Houston is going to have to take advantage of baserunners in scoring position when it gets them. The Astros weren't a good team when it came to hitting with runners in scoring position in the regular season, batting .244 (tied for 13th in the AL).

3. Starting pitching: The Astros will go as far as their pitching will take them. It begins with the starters, and with Dallas Keuchel only scheduled to pitch once in the series, it's going to be up to the other starters to carry the load. Collin McHugh could start twice, but Scott Kazmir's start in Game 2 could loom large. He's struggled for the past two months, but he has great numbers against the Royals this year prior to that. Another questionable factor: How will rookie Lance McCullers Jr. handle the big stage if he gets a start?

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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