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Top stats to know: Royals advance to ALCS

The Kansas City Royals are headed to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1985 after sweeping the Los Angeles Angels.

Imagine what the chances were of typing that when the Royals trailed the Oakland Athletics 7-3 in the eighth inning of the AL wild-card game.

It is part of a string of improbabilities that the Royals have weaved into something magical.

Homegrown Heroes

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that they became the first team to sweep the team with the best record in baseball in the division series.

They hit as many home runs as the Angels did in this series (4). During the regular season, the Angels outhomered them by 60 (155 to 95).

The disadvantage will be even greater in the ALCS. It will be the first postseason meeting of the team with the most home runs in the majors (the Baltimore Orioles) against the team with the fewest (the Royals) since the 1982 World Series between the Brewers and the Cardinals.

The Royals held likely AL MVP Mike Trout to one hit in three games and limited Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to only two hits in 25 at-bats. Now they have to contend with Nelson Cruz, but they’ve already shut him down to an extent, holding him to five hits in 27 at-bats.

If the Royals are going to keep winning, they are likely going to need to play defense in the same manner they have this postseason.

That's Why They Play The Games
Royals This Postseason

Lorenzo Cain’s two diving catches in center field were the latest in a run of terrific plays this postseason. Cain’s play wasn’t that surprising to those who have seen him every day. He ranked fifth in the major leagues with 25 defensive runs saved. The Royals' outfield led the major leagues in defensive runs saved this season.

They’ll also likely need to continue running as aggressively as they have thus far. Billy Butler was the latest to get to do that, stealing a base for the first time since the 2012 season.

That could be more of a challenge in the ALCS. Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph held opposing base stealers to a 62 percent success rate in his 78 games behind the plate. That was bettered by only two catchers this season: Christian Vazquez (48 percent) and Yadier Molina (54 percent).

The Royals and Orioles share a common thread as they ready for their matchup, which begins later this week. The Royals haven’t been to the World Series since winning it in 1985. Orioles fans have waited even longer. Their team hasn’t been back since 1983.