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Royals beat A’s 9-8 in 12 in AL wild-card thriller

October 1, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — The Kansas City Royals had waited 29 years to reach Major League’s Baseball’s playoffs and they fought hard to stay there on Tuesday, edging the Oakland Athletics 9-8 in a 12-inning postseason classic.

Salvador Perez singled down the left-field line with two outs in the 12th inning, allowing Christian Colon to score from second base and giving the long-suffering Royals victory in the American League wild-card game.

Kansas City progresses to a best-of-five AL division series against the Los Angeles Angels, starting in California on Thursday.

The A’s raced out to a 7-3 lead by the sixth inning, but the Royals countered with three runs in the eighth. Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly off Sean Doolittle in the ninth tied the game and forced extra innings.

Oakland went back ahead 8-7 in the top of the 12th but the Royals managed to respond.

In the bottom of the 12th, Eric Hosmer was the first batter up and hit a rocket to the wall in left field off Dan Otero for a triple. Colon followed with an infield chopper that gave him enough time to scramble to first base and Hosmer to make it to home plate for the tying run.

That set the stage for Perez, who lined a pitch from Jason Hammel just inside the third-base line to bring home Colon and end the game.

“This will go down as the craziest game I’ve ever played,” said Hosmer. “This team showed a lot of character. No one believed in us before the game. No one believed in us before the season.”

The Royals players poured out of their dugout in a justifiably mad celebration. The long-suffering franchise hadn’t played in the postseason since winning the 1985 World Series.

For Oakland, it was one final collapse in a season full of them. The club that once had the best record of any team in the early months of the season wilted over the second half of the campaign, and needed a victory on the final day of the regular season just to squeeze into the playoffs.

They had chances to put all that in the past. Instead, it will be dragged up for years.

Still, even Moss — who would have been the two-homer hero had the A’s hung on — could appreciated the quality of the contest.

“They finally got ahead there in the 30th inning or whatever it was,” said Moss. “That was definitely the best baseball game I’ve ever been a part of.”

A much-anticipated pitching showdown between Oakland ace Jon Lester and Kansas City counterpart James Shields instead turned into a high-scoring game and a battle of attrition between their bullpens.

Brandon Moss helped the A’s strike first, belting a two-run homer in the first inning and a three-run shot in the fifth.

Oakland had what seemed a winning lead after the fifth and Lester — long a thorn in the side of Kansas City — had started to hit his stride. But A’s manager Bob Melvin opted to send him out for the eighth inning, and the game turned.

The Royals countered by playing small ball, stealing seven bases to tie a postseason record previously shared by the 1907 Chicago Cubs and 1975 Cincinnati Reds, according to STATS.

Luke Gregerson replaced Lester but failed to provide much and the A’s four-run lead had been whittled to one.

A’s closer Doolittle tried to finish the game off in the ninth, but he served up a leadoff single to Josh Willingham. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson moved to second on a sacrifice fly and then brashly stole third base, allowing him to score when Aoki hit a sacrifice high to right field.

It was the third time in the last three seasons Doolittle has blown a postseason save.

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