After waiting nearly 30 years, it seems the Kansas City Royals aren’t just content with making the playoffs – they want to win the whole thing.
Ending a postseason drought since 1985, the Royals swept their second consecutive opponent to reach the World Series. A 2-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday sends Kansas City to the championship after easily winning the ALCS.
As was the case in Game 3, the Royals did it with pitching. The result was the same – a second straight 2-1 victory.
Starter Jason Vargas didn’t go deep into the game for Kansas City, but did his job, allowing only one run on two hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched. From there, the Orioles were again denied by the Royals bullpen. Three relievers, including Greg Holland, who got the save, went the rest of the way without giving up a run and only two hits. Holland saved all four games for Kansas City and on Wednesday, had another lights out performance.
The Royals got little offense themselves out of a Baltimore pitching staff that also put together its second consecutive strong outing. Kansas City had a little luck on their side, however, via the Orioles shooting themselves in the collective foot. Kansas City’s only offense came in the first inning after what proved to be fatal mistakes by Baltimore.
With leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar on base after an infield single, Orioles’ starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez hit Norichika Aoki with a pitch, giving the Royals runners on first and second with nobody out. Lorenzo Cain‘s sacrifice pushed the runners over and an ensuing Eric Hosmer ground ball turned out to be the offensive play of the game for the Royals.
After Hosmer’s grounder to Steve Pearce, the first baseman threw home in an attempt to catch Escobar at the plate. But not only was Escobar safe, the ball got away from catcher Caleb Joseph, allowing Aoki to score as well. Those two runs were all that Kansas City would need.
The idea to have Cain bunt is one that would have been criticized had it not worked out. With only five home runs in 133 regular season games, he isn’t a power hitter. But Cain batted .301 in the regular season and, so far, is batting .353 in the postseason. To force him to bunt there seemed like the wrong decision, but it’s difficult to criticize manager Ned Yost with the team winning the game. A reasonable argument exists that the Royals are winning in spite of Yost, but after nearly 30 years of missing the playoffs, this isn’t exactly the time to complain about some of his questionable managerial decisions this postseason.
The Orioles could muster only a single run on Ryan Flaherty‘s solo home run in the third inning.
In reality, the Orioles pitched just as well as the Royals did. Gonzalez went 5 2/3 innings, giving up only those two runs (one earned). Baltimore’s pen gave up only a single hit the rest of the way, producing 2 1/3 scoreless frames.
Kansas City will now await the winner between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. The Royals are now a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs.