4 ingredients for Blue Jays to win the ALCS

4 ingredients for Blue Jays to win the ALCS

KANSAS CITY -- The Blue Jays and Royals will renew their heated rivalry when the American League Championship Series gets underway tonight (7:30 ET on FOX/Sportsnet) at Kauffman Stadium.

There is no love lost between these teams, as evidenced by a bitter series in early August that involved three ejections, a benches-clearing altercation and a particularly terse exchange between Kansas City's Edinson Volquez and Toronto's Josh Donaldson.

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Those fireworks may create an interesting sideshow for everybody watching the games, but none of it should actually affect the results on the field. Here are four things that should make a difference as MLB.com takes a look at the ingredients for the Blue Jays to advance to the World Series:

Game Date Matchup
Gm 1 Oct. 16 KC 5, TOR 0
Gm 2 Oct. 17 KC 6, TOR 3
Gm 3 Oct. 19 TOR 11, KC 8
Gm 4 Oct. 20 KC 14, TOR 2
Gm 5 Oct. 21 TOR 7, KC 1
Gm 6 Oct. 23 KC 4, TOR 3

1. Russell Martin
Martin isn't going to start Game 1 with right-hander Marco Estrada on the mound, but he will still figure prominently in the series. The Royals love to run, and they showed last October how much success they can have with their small-ball approach. Kansas City ranked second in the AL with 104 stolen bases, but the strategy to run wild will be easier said than done against Toronto.

The 32-year-old Martin threw out 44 percent of potential baserunners this year, which was tied with Washington's Wilson Ramos for most in the Major Leagues. Overall, Martin threw out 32 runners, and the only catcher who had a higher number than that was San Diego's Derek Norris, who threw out just 34 percent. When the Royals' Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore are on base late in games, this will be a matchup to watch.

2. David Price
The Blue Jays didn't get what they were expecting out of Price in the AL Division Series, but he has another opportunity to make a big impact against the Royals. In Game 1 vs. the Rangers, Price struggled with his command and didn't get a single swing-and-miss on his fastball while allowing five runs over seven innings. The early issues played a role in Toronto going with Marcus Stroman over Price in the decisive Game 5.

Price will get the call in Game 2 vs. Kansas City and should be back for Game 6 if the series goes that far. The AL Cy Young Award candidate's career numbers against the Rangers weren't good, but they are fantastic vs. the Royals. In six career appearances, Price has a 2-0 record with a 1.93 ERA in 37 1/3 innings. Two of those outings came earlier this year, when Price was still pitching for the Tigers. In the first, Price allowed one run in a complete-game victory, while the next time out, he surrendered five runs -- four earned -- over 6 1/3 innings.

3. Offence needs to click
The Blue Jays' recipe for success is pretty simplistic: When they score a lot of runs they win, and when the bats struggle, they have difficulty finding other ways to come out on top. Toronto's lineup was the best in baseball this year, and while it started off slow in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS vs. Texas, the offense was there for the remainder of the series.

Kansas City's bullpen has the ability to shut teams down, but its starting rotation appears to be questionable. The Royals' starters ranked 12th in the AL with a 4.34 ERA, and that could mean good things for a Blue Jays team that went 65-23 when scoring first. Jose Bautista, Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion had their moments vs. the Rangers, and they'll need to be big again vs. Kansas City.

4. The young guns
The Blue Jays will be without left-hander Brett Cecil for the entire ALCS because of a torn left calf muscle, and that puts even more pressure on Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna at the back end of the bullpen. Both pitchers experienced some difficulty toward the end of the regular season, but they haven't missed a beat so far in the postseason.

Osuna and Sanchez have combined to toss 11 scoreless innings this postseason. That success will need to continue, especially in a series that could feature close ballgames. The two young arms were one of the main reasons Toronto outlasted the Rangers in the ALDS, and they'll need to be equally as effective against Kansas City. The same thing could be said for Aaron Loup, who will return for Game 1 and is Toronto's lone lefty in the 'pen.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.