Orioles-Royals Preview

The Kansas City Royals have picked up right where they left off from October, while the Baltimore Orioles appear to have rejoined the American League's upper tier after falling back last season.

The two early division leaders begin a three-game series Friday night at Kauffman Stadium, a venue that's given Baltimore trouble in recent years.

Coming off a disappointing 81-81 campaign, Baltimore (10-4) has begun this one resembling its 2014 squad that won 96 games and a playoff series before being swept by the upstart Royals in the AL championship series. Among the majors' best teams in one-run games that season, this year's group is showing an ability to succeed in those situations as well.

After Wednesday's 4-3, 10-inning win over Toronto, Baltimore rallied for a 3-2 victory over the defending AL East champs in Thursday's series finale. Manny Machado delivered a tie-breaking RBI double in the eighth inning after the Orioles manufactured a run in the seventh.

"It's a big series win, yeah. A huge series win," said starter Chris Tillman, who threw five scoreless innings after allowing two in the first. "I think all the way through it was good baseball. Played some pretty close games there throughout the series and to come out on top is huge."

Machado continues to play a major role in Baltimore's strong start. The 23-year-old went 6 for 12 with four extra-base hits and four RBIs for the series and is batting .407 over a 14-game hitting streak, matching Hall of Famer Eddie Murray (1982) and Brian Roberts (2005) for the longest in team history to start a season.

Rookie Joey Rickard has provided a spark as well, reaching base safely in all 14 games and raising his average to .350 with a 3-for-5 effort Thursday.

Kansas City (10-5) continues to make its pitching-and-defense formula work despite a few key defections from its 2015 championship team. The Royals rank among the AL leaders with a 2.91 team ERA, a mark lowered by Thursday's 4-0 win over Detroit behind Edinson Volquez's seven sharp innings.

"Eddie was just fantastic against a really good hitting team over there," manager Ned Yost told MLB's official website. "He gave us seven strong innings when we needed to give the bullpen a little break."

Volquez got help from a pair of defensive gems from Alex Gordon. The Gold Glove outfielder robbed Justin Upton of extra bases with a spectacular diving catch in the fourth and threw out Jose Iglesias trying to advance from first to third on a single an inning earlier.

Kansas City is still seeking a solid start from Chris Young (0-3, 7.90 ERA), though. The veteran has started in three of the club's five losses and allowed four runs and eight hits in four-plus innings in Saturday's 5-3 defeat at Oakland.

Baltimore's Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 5.63) pitched well through six in the ex-Ranger's return to Texas on Saturday, but allowed a walk and a double that led to a six-run seventh and an 8-4 loss. The offseason addition was charged with four runs and nine hits.

Gallardo makes his first start at Kauffman Stadium, where the Orioles have lost seven of eight including the 2014 ALCS. He held the Royals to two runs over seven innings of a 5-2 win at Texas last May.