Royals reach World Series with ALCS sweep
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are into the World Series for the first time since 1985 after beating Baltimore 2-1 on Wednesday to complete a 4-0 sweep of the American League Championship Series.
The Royals likely opponents are the San Francisco Giants, who beat St. Louis 6-4 to take a 3-1 series lead in the National League decider, and they can clinch a World Series berth with a home win over the Cardinals on Thursday.
Kansas City again proved to be the master of close games, beating the Orioles by a single run for the third time in the series, having won three other extra-inning games earlier in the playoffs.
“It’s been an amazing run. This is great,” said left fielder Alex Gordon, who made a crucial and courageous catch which resulted in a jarring collision with the left-field wall. “Today, same old story: good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win.”
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain was selected Most Valuable Player of the ALCS, batting .533 and leading an outstanding defense.
After holding the Orioles to three hits in Game 3 on Tuesday, Royals starter Jason Vargas and the bullpen nearly did so again. Relievers Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis ushered the game to closer Greg Holland, who matched Dennis Eckersley’s record by saving his fourth game in the ALCS.
Kansas City will host the first two World Series games beginning Tuesday. While San Francisco now seems the destined opponent, if St. Louis turns around the NL series, it will set up a reprise of the 1985 World Series, when the Royals won their only MLB title by beating the Cardinals.
Regardless of the opponent, the Royals will carry an 11-game playoff win streak into the World Series, one shy of the major league record. The first three date back to 1985 and after a 29-year absence from the postseason, the Royals have thrived by winning eight in a row in this campaign. That includes the wild-card playoff against Oakland, then three straight wins to beat the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Division Series.
“We know once we have the lead, we’ve got the best pitching staff and the best bullpen around. So we’ve got to get them the lead,” said Eric Hosmer, who drove in a run. “We’re not done. We ain’t done yet.”
The Orioles, meanwhile, will limp into the offseason after suffering their first sweep in 21 playoff series, dating to the days when the club was called the St. Louis Browns.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Buster Posey drove in three runs and the Giants took advantage of some poor defense by St. Louis first baseman Matt Adams, beating the Cardinals 6-4.
Having won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, San Francisco is in good shape to continue its recent knack of taking the ultimate prize in even-numbered years.
October ace Madison Bumgarner will be the starting pitcher for San Francisco on Thursday against St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright.
The Cardinals have good reason to believe they can mount a comeback, as in 2012 it was St. Louis that led San Francisco 3-1 in the NLDS only for the Giants to reel off three-straight wins to advance.
San Francisco climbed out of an early three-run hole, and back-to-back bad throws by Adams in the sixth inning helped the Giants rally. It was a reminder of Game 3 when a wild toss by St. Louis reliever Randy Choate allowed the winning run to score in the 10th inning.
“Any time you can put pressure on the defense, you’ve got the opportunity for good things to happen,” Posey said. “We’re able to come up with some big two-out RBIs to get back in the game.”
The Cardinals were clinging to a 4-3 lead when San Francisco put runners at second and third base. With the infielders playing in close, the lumbering Adams backhanded a bouncer and stumbled as he tried to set himself to throw home.
The throw short-hopped catcher Tony Cruz as Juan Perez slid across with the tying run.
Joe Panik then hit a grounder right to Adams, who stepped on first base before firing wildly to second in trying for a double play. The throw went wide, forcing shortstop Jhonny Peralta to come well off the base to glove it, and he had no chance to throw out runner Brandon Crawford at the plate.
Posey added an RBI single off Seth Maness to make it 6-4. The star catcher also had a sacrifice fly in the first and a run-scoring single in the third.
Yusmeiro Petit pitched three scoreless innings to win in relief of an ineffective Ryan Vogelsong. Petit has been a valuable long reliever — he delivered six shutout innings in an 18-inning NLDS victory at Washington.
“He’s been really good for us for a long time and he’s finally getting some recognition. What a weapon to have,” Posey said.
The Cardinals grounded into three double plays that cost them chances to add on to their early 1-0 lead. They turned a couple of double-play gems of their own, too, before the blunders.