Royals rally in extras, steal their way to an AL Wild Card victory
For the first time in nearly three decades Tuesday night, the Royals hosted a playoff game. The visiting A's entered the American League Wild Card matchup with mid-season acquisition and noted postseason ace Jon Lester on the mound, while Kansas City gave the ball to James Shields. A pitchers' duel seemed like a safe bet.
The terms were simple: One game. One very loud Kauffman Stadium. Winner gets the Angels. Loser goes home.
Brandon Moss, torn hip cartilage and all, didn't waste any time before getting things started. He pulled a Shields changeup, low and over the outer half of the plate, into the seats in right for a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
His first-inning blast wasn't enough -- KC scored once in the first and twice in the third to take the lead -- so Moss did it again, this time putting Oakland on top in the sixth. Yordano Ventura put a 98-mph fastball in virtually the same spot as Shields' first-inning changeup, and Moss sent it to straightaway center. At the end of the frame, the A's were winning 7-3.
Moss had two homers in his final 154 regular-season at-bats. So this, of course, was expected.- Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) October 1, 2014
The score remained the same until a dramatic bottom of the eighth inning -- four stolen bases, three singles and two walks -- yielded three Royals runs, which cut the A's lead to 7-6. Luke Gregerson extricated himself from the jam with back-to-back strikeouts of Salvador Perez and Omar Infante.
Nori Aoki provided everyone with some #freebaseball when his ninth-inning sacrifice fly tied the game at seven and sent it into extras.
It's crazy how this game has followed the trajectory of the A's season: Awesome start, epic collapse, barely hold on to play extras.- Aaron Leibowitz (@aaron_leib) October 1, 2014
Alberto Callaspo gave the A's the lead in the top of the 12th, but the Royals came back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to walk off with the 9-8 win. First, Christian Colon singled on a soft ground ball toward third to score Eric Hosmer (more on him later) and tie the game.
Moments later, A's righty Jason Hammel entered to face Perez with two outs. Perez pulled a slider away to left field -- just beyond the outstretched glove of third baseman Josh Donaldson -- to give the Royals the 9-8 win.
The Game Changer
The catalyst of the Royals' game-winning rally was Eric Hosmer, who sent a long fly ball to deep left-center with one out. The ball evaded the gloves of left fielder Jonny Gomes and center fielder Sam Fuld, who converged on the play and were briefly tangled up. Hosmer ended up with a stand-up triple and would eventually score the tying run.
Other Key Players, Plays
With one Royals run in, men on the corners and two outs in the first, Kansas City ran itself out of the inning. Billy Butler wandered too far off first, and while he was in a pickle, Eric Hosmer broke from third to home. He didn't make it.
Although he gave up six runs -- a career-high in 14 postseason appearances -- Lester was, at times, dominant. Witness Omar Infante's strikeout/corkscrew impression in the second.
With the Royals holding a (short-lived) lead, Kansas City fans were pleased in the fourth, especially this bunch when one man caught a foul ball. The city waited 29 years for the chance to catch postseason foul balls, after all.
The A's really-going-for-it postseason run is over almost as soon as it started. They head into the offseason with Lester's impending free agency arguably the biggest of all their question marks.
The Royals, meanwhile, will play the AL West champion Angels in the Division Series. Game 1 against Jered Weaver is at 9 p.m. ET Thursday.