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Three keys for Royals in ALCS against Orioles

KANSAS CITY -- Let's see, the Orioles have won 99 games this year with their three-game sweep of the Tigers. The Royals have won 93 games after their four straight postseason victories.

So that's not much of a difference, and the Royals won the season series from the Orioles, 4-3. But wait -- that Tigers team that the O's swept in the American League Division Series is the team that manhandled the Royals this year, winning 13 of 19 games.

Oh, dear. So let's look at three keys for the Royals if they're going to dispatch the Birds (Game 1 is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. CT on TBS):

1. A good outing from James Shields
Yeah, the Royals haven't made it official that "Big Game" will start Friday night's opener but it's a virtual lock. A victory -- at least one in the two games at Baltimore -- would be a good beginning in this best-of-seven series.

2. More of that home run punch
The Royals, who had the lowest four-base total in the Majors during the regular season, surprisingly unloaded some big blasts against the Angels. Alex Gordon has hit eight career homers at cozy Camden Yards, while Billy Butler has hit six. Maybe Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas could conquer that right-field scoreboard.

3. The back end of the bullpen is healthy
The worry over Kelvin Herrera's arm faded when he blazed 100-plus mph fastballs in Sunday night's ALDS clincher. That makes the mighty threesome of Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland whole, healthy and dangerous.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for
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