MLB playoffs: Royals sweep O's, head to World Series
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After a playoff drought lasting 10,565 days, the Kansas City Royals are going back to the World Series. They are doing it in record fashion, with eight consecutive wins to open the postseason. The Royals scored two runs in the...
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After a playoff drought lasting 10,565 days, the Kansas City Royals are going back to the World Series.
They are doing it in record fashion, with eight consecutive wins to open the postseason.
The Royals scored two runs in the first inning without getting the ball out of the infield, then held on for a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday that completed a four-game sweep of the American League Championship Series.
No other team ever began a postseason with eight wins in a row.
“I don’t think we’re done yet,” Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said.
Kansas City will face either the San Francisco Giants or St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, which begins Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals last went to the World Series in 1985, when they beat the Cardinals in seven games. They then went 29 years between playoff appearances.
The Orioles, who won the American League East title and swept the Detroit Tigers in the AL Division Series, were swept for the first time in 20 postseason series. The Royals won the final two games of the series by 2-1 scores.
“It’s disappointing and frustrating - not frustrating - but disappointing for our guys and our fans,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You saw how close the games were. It’s more a testament of what they did.”
Royals starter Jason Vargas pitched effectively into sixth inning, and then the Kansas City’s star bullpen trio took over. Right-handers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings to close out the win, with Holland posting his fourth save in the series.
Vargas gave up one run and two hits while walking three and striking out six in 5 1/3 innings to pick up the victory.
“The only thing you dream more about is winning the World Series,” Vargas said. “It’s everything I imagined. I was ready to go from the time you wake up. I was just counting down the minutes. The most relaxing thing was getting into my routine and getting ready for the game.”
Once Vargas exited, manager Ned Yost turned the one-run advantage over to his dominating relievers.
“The starting pitching was phenomenal,” Yost said of his rotation in the series. “The bullpen was unbelievable.”
Herrera worked 1 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and striking out one. Davis pitched the eighth inning, yielding a single.
Holland walked center fielder Adam Jones to lead off the ninth inning after having him down in the count 0-2. Baltimore left fielder Nelson Cruz, who led the majors in home runs, hit a bouncer back to Holland that should have been a double play. Holland’s throw was off the mark, and shortstop Alcides Escobar had to reach far to his right to pull down the throw and barely got a toe on the bag.
“We got an out,” Holland said with a smile. “It was pretty good play (by Escobar). It shot up the line on me. I didn’t get a good grip on it. I kind of rushed the throw, trying to get two. That’s what our defense does. He’s as athletic as it gets at shortstop. He went and made a play for me.”
Holland then struck out designated hitter Delmon Young and retired shortstop J.J. Hardy on a grounder to third to end the game.
The Royals played their normal spectacular defense, which included Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon doing a face plant into the fence while catching Hardy’s liner in the fifth inning.
The opportunistic Royals scored two runs with just one hit in the first inning.
Escobar led off with the Royals’ 15th infield single in the playoffs. Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez hit right fielder Nori Aoki with a pitch on the right leg, and center fielder Lorenzo Cain bunted the runners over to second and third.
“The bunt was on my own, and we end up winning 2-1, so definitely a huge bunt,” Cain said. “I feel with the lefty-right matchup with (first baseman Eric Hosmer coming up), I felt I was just allowing runners to get in scoring position for Hos because he’s been swinging the bat really well.”
Hosmer hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Steve Pearce, who threw home. Escobar, however, kicked the ball loose from catcher Caleb Joseph on his slide, which also allowed Aoki to score. Hosmer was credited with a fielder’s-choice RBI, and Aoki’s run was unearned.
Cain, who hit .533 (8-for-15) and scored five runs in the four games, was selected the Most Valuable Player of the ALCS.
“I knew I was playing good, but MVP, definitely not,” Cain said.
The Orioles trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the third inning, which third baseman Ryan Flaherty led off with a home run to right on a 1-0 pitch. Vargas allowed only two other homers to left-handed hitters this season.
Vargas walked Jones to lead off the fourth inning, but Young grounded into a double play for the second time in the game.
“They played great baseball,” Jones said of the Royals. “You can’t sugarcoat what they did. They played really, really good baseball, and they deserve to go to the World Series. It’s not that we don’t; we just didn’t win. This team we have is unbelievable. It’s been an unbelievable year. To get this far with this group of men has been an honor.”
Gonzalez was pulled after allowing two runs (one earned), four hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings.
“Everything was going their way,” Gonzalez said. “Nothing went our way. They had broken-bat base hits. They were finding the holes. Their pitching was great. That was the difference.”
And the Royals are World Series-bound.
“Words cannot describe it,” Holland said. “It’s been an incredible ride for us. To be able to do it at home is even better. Somebody different is contributing every day. We can win on a ground ball, sac fly or stolen base. And we’ve learned how to play a lot of close games, and we’re very comfortable in those games.”
NOTES: Game 3 on Tuesday was played in 2 hours, 55 minutes, and Game 4 on Wednesday lasted one minute longer, the first ALCS games to end in less than three hours since Game 6 in 2010, when the Texas Rangers defeated the New York Yankees 6-1. ... Royals OF Lorenzo Cain had eight hits in the series, one short of the Royals’ record in the AL Championship Series. OF Willie Wilson collected nine hits in the 1985 ALCS. ... The Orioles’ three hits Tuesday were their fewest in a playoff game since Oct. 11, 1996, when they had three hits against the Yankees in a 5-2 loss. They managed just four hits Wednesday. ... David Cook, the 2008 “American Idol” winner who is from Blue Springs, Mo., in suburban Kansas City, performed the national anthem before the game.