After winning the American League East Division and sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the AL Division Series, the Baltimore Orioles are making their first appearance in the AL Championship Series since 1997.

The Orioles will face the upstart Kansas City Royals, who won the AL Wild Card game and then swept the top-seeded Los Angeles Angeles in the Division Series.

ALCS SCHEDULE
Royals lead series 3-0

Game 1: Friday, Oct. 10 in Baltimore
Royals 8, Orioles 6 in 10 innings

Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 11 in Baltimore
Royals 6, Orioles 4

Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 14 in Kansas City
Royals 2, Orioles 1

Game 4: Wednesday, Oct. 15 in Kansas City
4 p.m. on TBS
Gonzalez (10-9) at Vargas (11-10)

Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 16 in Kansas City*
4 p.m. on TBS
Pitchers TBD

Game 6: Friday, Oct. 17 in Baltimore*
8 p.m. on TBS
Pitchers TBD

Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 18 in Baltimore*
8 p.m. on TBS
Pitchers TBD

* If necessary

Lights Out Late: Both teams rely on stingy bullpens that were a key to their success early in the playoffs, so runs could be hard to come by in the late innings. Herrera left the ALDS opener against the Angels after five pitches with a strained forearm but tossed a scoreless inning in Game 3.

Cruz Control: A dangerous thumper all season, Cruz is often at his best in October. MVP of the 2011 ALCS with Texas, he owns a 1.059 OPS with 16 homers and 32 RBIs in 37 postseason games. Following the Biogenesis investigation, Cruz served a 50-game suspension last year with the Rangers for violating MLB’s drug agreement. Then he spurned a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Texas and took an $8 million, one-year deal with Baltimore, plus available bonuses. He had a much better year than even the Orioles could have imagined, carrying a depleted lineup at times, but his power production tailed off during the final two months of the season. He turned it back on once the playoffs began, going 6 for 12 with two homers, five RBIs and four runs in the sweep of Detroit, which started three straight Cy Young Award winners.

Managing Expectations: At the helm of his fourth big league team, the respected Showalter has a well-earned reputation as one of the game’s best team-builders and tacticians. It might seem he’s wound pretty tight, but no small detail escapes him. Yost, on the other hand, was once fired by Milwaukee in the middle of a September playoff race, and some of his curious moves have drawn the ire of Royals fans. With both bullpens stacked and the benches often in play, this could become an interesting chess match.

Karma, Baby: The Royals believe this is finally their time. They were counted out for much of the season, languishing below .500 on July 22. They were counted out again in the wild-card game before two late comebacks. Perhaps the same karma that won them Game 6 of the 1985 World Series — the infamous Don Denkinger call — has reared its head for a franchise that was downtrodden for decades. But the Orioles also waited a long time to taste success, and they’ve relished the underdog role while overcoming one obstacle after another this year.

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