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  1. Rays

ALCS: Orioles-Royals preview

AL Championship Series

Orioles (96-66) vs. Royals (89-73)

Time/TV/radio: 8 tonight, Game 1; TBS; 620-AM

Season series: Royals won 4-3

Format: Best-of-seven series

Tonight's starters: Royals — RH James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA, 180 K's); Orioles — RH Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34, 150 K's)

Of note: This is the first meeting of these teams in postseason history. … Both clubs will be well-rested after a four-day break following Division Series sweeps. … Shields, a former Ray, knows the Orioles well from his AL East days. He was 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts against the O's this season. He is 11-7, 3.52 in 26 career starts, including two shutouts. Markakis, 21-for-71 (.296) with two home runs and eight RBIs, and Jones, 14-for-46 (.304) with a homer and six RBIs, have the most success against Big Game James. … Tillman shut out the Royals with a five-hitter in May, but he gave up 20 runs in four previous starts against them. … Kansas City wins with solid starting pitching, a nasty bullpen, daring on the basepaths, sensational defense and baseball fundamentals. During the regular season, Kansas City ranked last in the majors with 95 home runs but first with 153 steals. … This is only Baltimore's second trip to the playoffs since 1997. The previous one, in 2012, ended with a Division Series loss in five games to the Yankees after the Orioles beat Texas in the wild-card game. … Baltimore is still missing three key players. All-Star C Matt Wieters had season-ending elbow surgery in May, 3B Manny Machado had season-ending knee surgery in August, and 1B Chris Davis is serving a 25-game suspension for using amphetamines.

Marc Topkin's prediction: Orioles in 6

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