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Who do the Royals want to face in the first round of the playoffs?

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Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals will almost certainly clinch their first Central Division title in the next few days, and during this week will also likely clinch home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs (they still hold a two game lead for home field advantage for the entire playoffs). Let's look at the current American League standings.

W L
Kansas City 87 62 Division leader
Toronto 85 64 Division leader
Texas 80 69 Division leader
New York 81 66 Wild Card leader
Houston 79 71 Wild Card leader
Los Angeles 76 73
Minnesota 76 73

The Royals will almost certainly not play the Blue Jays in the first round of the playoffs, unless Toronto somehow slumps behind New York to fall to the Wild Card. Ideally, the Royals would play the Angels or Twins, but neither is in line for a post-season spot as of now. Both teams have been slumping with the Angels going just 21-36 since the start of August, and the Twins dropping five of their last six. The Royals have also fared well against both, going 6-1 against the Angels and 9-7 against the Twins.

Assuming the Royals will be left facing one of the other three contenders, which one poses the most favorable matchup for the Royals? Which is the scariest? Let's lineup the potential contenders.

Texas Rangers

Season Series: Texas 4-3, Rangers outscored Royals 33-23

Why you want to play them: The Rangers have the second-highest FIP in the league. The pitching staff is very thin. Rangers relievers have the third-worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league and the fourth-worst ERA. The Rangers are a poor hitting team on the road, batting just .236/.303/.386 away from Global Life Park.

Why you don't want to play them: Only the Blue Jays have won more games since August 1. The Rangers have gone 30-17 since that date. The offense has been hot lately, averaging 4.7 runs per game since the start of August. Veteran Josh Hamilton and rookie Joey Gallo have been disappointments, but could be decent bat benches in October.

Texas has come out of nowhere to take the lead in the Western Division despite holes in their lineup and a thin pitching staff. The depth could be less of an issue in a short series in October however, with mid-season acquisition Cole Hamels serving as the ace pitcher the team lacked earlier this year. The Royals haven't faced the Rangers since early June, when the team looked much differently than it does today.

New York Yankees

Season Series: New York 4-2, Yankees outscored Royals 29-23

Why you want to play them: The starting pitching is decidedly mediocre with an ERA of 4.22, just a bit better than the Royals. First baseman Mark Teixeira is out for the year. Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi is not likely to be ready to start for the first round of the playoffs. C.C. Sabathia is pitching in pain with an arthritic knee. The Yankees have the third-worst Defensive Runs Saved in the league at -34.

Why you don't want to play them: The Yankees have the third-highest walk rate for hitters. Tex's replacement, rookie Greg Bird, has just as much pop as the All-Star. The relief duo of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances is the most dominating bullpen duo in baseball. They still have the mystique and aura of Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have a flawed team but have powered their way into the pennant race with the second-most runs scored in the league and third-most home runs. Despite all their left-handed bats, the Yankees hit slightly better against left-handed pitching (.261/.338/.430) than right-handed pitching (.248/.315/.423). The hoopla surrounding Alex Rodriguez in the post-season will be amazing.

Houston Astros

Season Series: Houston 4-2, Astros outscored Royals 22-13

Why you want to play them: The team is in free-fall, dropping 12 of 18 games in September. They are on pace to have the second-worst road record of a playoff team, so far with a record of 29-46. Just 44% of their home runs have come away from Minute Maid Park. Astros hitters strike out way more than any other team in the league. Over the last 30 days their bullpen has been worse than the Royals, with a 5.63 ERA, worst in the league over that time.

Why you don't want to play them: The Astros are second in home runs and lead the league in stolen bases. The Astros lead the league in fewest-runs allowed with a deep pitching staff. Despite the losing slump, the offense has been hitting well, averaging 4.8 runs per game in September with 23 home runs in 17 games.

Carlos Gomez is out with an intercostal injury and his odds of returning at full strength for the post-season is still in doubt. The Astros have depth though, and Preston Tucker and Jake Marisnick can capably cover for him. If they make the playoffs, the Astros have an interesting rotation decision to make between veteran Mike Fiers who has pitched well since being acquired, or rookie Lance McCullers. The Astros are young and inexperienced, but so were the Royals last October.