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Three keys for Royals' success vs. Astros

KANSAS CITY -- There certainly are similarities between the Astros and the Royals as the teams prepare to square off tonight in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at 6:37 p.m. CT on FOX Sports 1 at Kauffman Stadium.

Both teams have solid starting pitching, both teams play amazing defense and both teams are aggressive on the basepaths.

:: ALDS: Astros vs. Royals -- Tune-in info ::

So what will it take for the Royals to beat the Astros and advance to the ALCS?

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Here are three keys to winning the series:

SHORTEN THE GAME: Anyone who played the Royals in the postseason last year or the regular season this year knows how dominating that Kansas City bullpen can be. That gives manager Ned Yost a huge strategic advantage: If the Royals can get a lead after five innings, Yost can immediately go to his quartet of Danny Duffy, Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, all of whom possess closer-type stuff and all of whom can throw 96 mph and above.

All Yost needs from his starters is for them to throw well for five innings and maybe steal an out or two in the sixth. Then, if the Royals have the lead, it is, for the most part, checkmate.

MATCH HOUSTON'S POWER AND SPEED: The Royals know they probably aren't going to win any home run derbies with the Astros, who were second in the league in homers with 230. But the Royals were no slouches, either -- hitting 44 more homers than they did last year and they can hurt opponents with the long ball from No. 2 through No. 9 in the order. The Astros led the league in stolen bases while the Royals were third. Yost acknowledged that to beat the Astros, his club will have to control Houston's running game. The same could be said of Kansas City's running game. With the additional power this year, the Royals didn't have to run as much to manufacture runs. But that speed potential is still there and at Yost's disposal.

Video: KC@CWS: Moustakas breaks tie with two-run blast

USE HOME-FIELD EDGE: It's no secret that both the Royals and the Astros were tailored for their own parks. The Astros have a lineup that generally features low-average, high-homer guys built for the quirky and small dimensions of Minute Maid Park. The Royals are designed for gap-to-gap power and athleticism on defense at spacious Kauffman Stadium. Both teams were strong at home -- Royals going 51-30, while the Astros went 53-28. But Houston was just 33-48 away from Minute Maid Park. The Royals need to take advantage of their edge at The K, knowing they don't necessarily match up well at Minute Maid, where they got swept in three games earlier this season.

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.
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