It has been nearly three decades since either the Baltimore Orioles or Kansas City Royals won the American League pennant.
Both times, each club won the World Series, the Orioles in 1983 and the Royals in 1985.
One of them will be back in 2014. Both teams swept their AL Division Series as underdogs.
The Royals dispatched the Los Angeles Angles by adding power to their speed. The Orioles got by the Detroit Tigers with a dominant bullpen and serviceable starting pitching, including Bud Norris, who went 61/3 scoreless innings in the clincher against the Tigers.
The series begins at 7 p.m. Friday in Baltimore and moves to Kansas City for Games 3-5, before heading back to Baltimore, if necessary.
And it probably will be necessary. This series has all the makings of a long classic.
On the mound
The Orioles had the third-lowest ERA (3.43) in the AL during the regular season, but the Royals have the edge in pitching.
Royals starters James Shields and Yordano Ventura, who will start Games 1 and 2, have the edge on Orioles starters Chris Tillman and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.
Both bullpens have been surpurb. In a seven-game series, the back end of the rotations could loom large.
The Orioles might have the edge with Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, both with sub-3.65 ERAs in the regular season. The Royals would counter with lefty Jason Vargas or Jeremy Guthrie.
With such strong bullpens, each game could come down to matching late-inning zeroes between the Royals’ Greg Holland, Jason Frasor and lefty Brandon Finnegan (Southwest High School, TCU) and the Orioles’ Zach Britton (Weatherford), Andrew Miller and Kevin Gausman. Britton had two saves in the ALDS.
At the plate
This pairing makes mincemeat of the metrics gurus.
The Orioles led the AL in homers but were last in stolen bases. The Royals were last in the majors with 95 homers but led the league with 136 stolen bases.
But in the ALDS, KC hit four homers and stole five bases. The Orioles stole just two bases against the Tigers.
The Orioles also hit four homers, including two by Nelson Cruz, who led the majors with 40 homers and was fourth with 108 RBIs during the regular season.
Adam Jones, who struggled in the ALDS with a .182 batting average and no extra-base hits, had 29 homers and 96 RBIs in the regular season.
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas each homered twice for the Royals and Alex Gordon, arguably the Royals’ best hitter, had two doubles, four RBIs and hit .300 in the ALDS.
Former Ranger Chris Davis is unavailable at first base because of a suspension (for failing a drug test) and third baseman Manny Machado is out with a knee injury.
The Royals’ bullpen allowed just one run in 12 innings during the ALDS, including three perfect innings by closer Greg Holland, who earned two saves.
Both teams play excellent defense and committed just one error each in the ALDS. The Royals’ sweep of the Angels was highlighted by numerous defensive gems from outfielders Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Jarrod Dyson and have one of the best defensive shortstops in the game in Alcides Escobar.
The Orioles have one of the best defensive infields in the league with shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
Game 1: 7 p.m. Friday, TBS
Game 2: 3 p.m. Saturday, TBS
Game 3: 7 p.m. Monday, TBS
Game 4: 7 p.m. Tuesday, TBS
Game 5 (if nec.): 3 p.m. Wednesday, TBS
Game 6 (if nec.): 7 p.m.
Oct. 17, TBS
Game 7 (if nec.): 7 p.m.
Oct. 18, TBS