Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester throws to the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez
September 29, 2014
Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester throws to the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez

A look at the American League wild-card playoff between the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics:

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Schedule: Tuesday, at Kansas City, 8:07 p.m. EDT (TBS).

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Season Series: Royals won 5-2.

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Projected Lineups:

Athletics: CF Coco Crisp (.246, 9 HRs, 47 RBIs, 19 SBs), DH Adam Dunn (.219, 22, 64, 159 Ks with Oakland and Chicago White Sox), 3B Josh Donaldson (.255, 29, 98, 31 2Bs), LF Brandon Moss (.234, 25, 81, 153 Ks), RF Josh Reddick (.264, 12, 54), SS Jed Lowrie (.249, 6, 50), 1B Stephen Vogt (.279, 9, 35), C Geovany Soto (.253, 1, 11 with Oakland and Texas), 2B Eric Sogard (.223, 1, 22).

Royals: SS Alcides Escobar (.285, 3, 50, 31 SBs), RF Nori Aoki (.285, 1, 43, 17 SBs), CF Lorenzo Cain (.301, 5, 53, 28 SBs), 1B Eric Hosmer (.270, 9, 58), DH Billy Butler (.271, 9, 66), LF Alex Gordon (.266, 19, 74, 12 SBs), C Salvador Perez (.260, 19, 70), 2B Omar Infante (.252, 6, 66), 3B Mike Moustakas (.212, 15, 54).

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Starting Pitchers:

Athletics: LH Jon Lester (16-11, 2.46 ERA, 220 Ks with Oakland and Boston).

Royals: RH James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA).

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Relievers:

Athletics: LH Sean Doolittle (2-4, 2.73, 22/26 saves, 89/8 K/BB ratio), RH Luke Gregerson (5-5, 3.12, 3 saves), RH Ryan Cook (1-3, 3.42, 1 save), RH Dan Otero (8-2, 2.28, 1 save), LH Fernando Abad (2-4, 1.57), LH Eric O'Flaherty (1-0, 2.25, 1 save), LH Drew Pomeranz (5-4, 2.35).

Royals: RH Greg Holland (1-3, 1.44, 46/48 saves), RH Wade Davis (9-2, 1.00), RH Kelvin Herrera (4-3, 1.41), LH Brandon Finnegan (0-1, 1.29), RH Jason Frasor (3-0, 1.53), LH Francisley Bueno (0-0, 4.18), LH Scott Downs (0-2, 3.14), RH Aaron Crow (6-1, 4.12).

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Matchups:

These former AL West rivals met once before in the postseason, with Oakland sweeping Kansas City in three games in the division round of the strike-shortened 1981 season. ... Royals took two of three in Oakland and three of four in Kansas City during a pair of August meetings. ... Shields allowed five runs in 14 innings in two starts vs. Oakland, getting a win and a no-decision. He is 6-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 15 career starts vs. the A's. ... Dunn has the most experience against Shields, going 7 for 35 with 1 HR and 16 Ks. ... Reddick has three HRs in 22 ABs vs. Shields. ... Lester is 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 13 starts vs. Royals, winning all three this season - two with the A's. ... Butler is 4 for 28 against Lester. ... Jayson Nix has 3 HRs in 26 ABs off Lester. ... Holland is 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 6 saves in 13 career games against Oakland. ... Holland has 9 Ks in 12 ABs vs. Dunn. ... Aoki was a thorn in Oakland's side this season, going 9 for 22 with six runs in seven games. ... Crisp is batting .111 the past three seasons vs. Kansas City.

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Big Picture:

Athletics: Oakland (88-74) made the playoffs for the third straight year, getting in as the second wild card on the final day of the season after winning the AL West the previous two seasons. ... Oakland lost in the division series to Detroit the past two years and has lost seven of eight playoff series since 2000. ... The A's limped to the finish, losing 20 of their final 30 games. Their .433 winning percentage after the All-Star break was the lowest ever for a playoff team. ... Oakland finished third in the AL in runs, but averaged just 3.2 runs per game over the final 29 contests. ... The A's finished the year with a 3.22 ERA, their lowest since 1990. ... The playoff appearance is especially sweet for late-season acquisition Dunn, who will play his first postseason game after 2,001 in the regular season. ... Another midseason acquisition, Lester was 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts with Boston last year. ... Oakland's 111 errors were second-most in the AL.

Royals: Kansas City is back in the postseason for the first time since 1985, when most of its roster had not even been born. The Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals in an I-70 World Series that season. ... Kansas City (89-73) finished one game back of first-place Detroit in the AL Central. It was the team's best record since going 92-70 in 1989. ... The Royals have had more 100-loss seasons (four) than winning seasons (three) since 1993. ... Ned Yost finally gets a chance to manage in the postseason. He was fired by Milwaukee in mid-September 2008, and the Brewers went on to win a wild card under interim manager Dale Sveum, who is now the Royals' hitting coach. ... Kansas City relies on pitching and defense. The team had a 3.50 ERA, led by a bullpen that has arguably been baseball's best the past two seasons. ... The Royals finished middle-of-the-pack in most offensive categories, including 15th in runs. But they had the fourth-best batting average in the big leagues at .262. ... Escobar became the first Royals SS to play in all 162 games.

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Watch For:

- Lester's Line. Even though the A's lost five of their seven matchups with Kansas City, they probably feel good about their chances with Lester on the mound. He was the winning pitcher in both those victories over the Royals, which came during a two-week span in early August. Acquired from the Red Sox on July 31, Lester also threw a no-hitter against Kansas City in 2008.

- Big Game James. The Royals traded a bevy of top prospects, including OF Wil Myers, to Tampa Bay to acquire Shields before last season. Shields is having a strong September, too, pitching to a 2.31 ERA as the Royals won four of his five starts. On a team short on postseason experience, Shields can provide a bit, even though his results have been mixed. He was 2-4 with a 4.98 ERA in six playoff starts with Tampa Bay.

- Who Strikes First? The Royals have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and games are often all but over if they lead after the sixth inning. Herrera typically works the seventh, Davis the eighth and Holland the ninth. The three of them combined to pitch more than 200 innings with a 1.28 ERA this season. Meanwhile, the A's counter with a stingy bullpen of their own. Abad, Gregerson and Otero have been brilliant, and Doolittle was an All-Star. In other words, whoever gets the lead first could well keep it.

- Win Or Go Home. The winner-take-all scenario has not been good to the A's. They've lost a decisive Game 5 in six division series since 2000, including the past two years to Justin Verlander and Detroit.

- Disappearing Bats. After pounding opponents throughout the first half of the season, the A's struggled to generate much offense after the All-Star break - especially following the trade-deadline deal that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Lester. Moss hit only four homers with a .170 average after the break, and Crisp batted .195.

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