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Royals somehow don't homer, beat O's anyway to take 3-0 ALCS lead

Rain interfered with Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday, pleasing nobody except Kansas City restaurateurs (and probably the media members who feasted), so the Orioles and Royals gave it another shot Tuesday. With KC leading the series 2-0, the Royals entered looking to further their goal of closing out the ALCS without returning to Baltimore. The O's were just fighting for their season.

Kansas City righty Jeremy Guthrie, 35, made his postseason debut on 18 days rest. Baltimore left-hander Wei-Yin Chen became the first Taiwanese-born pitcher to start an LCS game.

The Highlights

Along with the series shifting to Kauffman Stadium came speculation about how the cavernous outfield, compared to the more cozy confines of Camden Yards, might affect the series.

The O's didn't take long to take advantage, using back-to-back doubles from Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Here's Hardy's, a deep drive well beyond the reach of center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who has seemingly gobbled up everything hit toward him this month:

HardyRBIDouble

It stayed that way until the fourth -- thanks in part to some sharp defense -- when the Royals loaded the bases with one out. Alex Gordon, who twice this postseason has doubled with the bases loaded, merely grounded out this time. It was enough to plate the tying run, with Cain coming home:

GordonRBIgroundout

If, in the unspecified future, this game is referred to as "That time Mike Moustakas fell into the stands while making a spectacular catch during the Royals' improbable World Series run," his grab in the top of the sixth is the reason why. Adam Jones popped into foul territory, and Moustakas fell into the field-level box seats while making the catch. Then the fans in Kaufmann Stadium lifted him back onto the field.

KC took a 2-1 lead a few minutes later. Nori Aoki and Eric Hosmer singled to put runners on the corners with one out, and Billy Butler stepped up with a chance to put his team on top. His fly ball to medium-depth left field proved enough to score the speedy Jarrod Dyson -- pinch-running for Aoki -- from third.

The Royals' lethal bullpen took over from there. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland each pitched a perfect inning. Here's Holland closing it out:

The Game Changer

Let's be honest: Jarrod Dyson has a good gig. In all seven Kansas City postseason games (all wins), the dude has started on the bench, entered no earlier than the sixth as a pinch-runner and/or defensive replacement and stayed on the field until the Royals won.

Manager Ned Yost followed that recipe again Tuesday. Although it's impossible to tell what might have happened during KC's game-winning rally had Aoki been on the bases instead of Dyson, it's probably better to err on the side of caution. Especially when the side of caution is a guy with "Zoom" cut into his hair.

His legs can back that up:

Oh, and he talks pretty good smack, too.

Other Key Players, Plays

For defense enthusiasts, Tuesday night's just-under-three-hour complete game had plenty to get excited about.

Eric Hosmer got things started by diving for a Nelson Cruz grounder in the second. Not dirty enough, apparently, Hosmer also dove into the bag to record the out.

HosmerDive

Then came this Moustakas play -- no, not the Moustakas play, just another really good one -- in the fourth. He dove to take a hit away from Pearce. That earned a tip of the cap from Guthrie.

MoustakasDive

Just as noteworthy as Guthrie's five innings of one-run ball was Yost's decision to go to his deep bullpen instead of having his starter face the meat of the Baltimore lineup for a third time. While Guthrie didn't get the win in the scorebook, he kept the Royals in it with this escape job in the second: 

Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz is closing in on 60 years of age, but he's as agile as ever. In the fifth he used those moves to dodge a foul ball:

What's Next?

The fans sticking around Kauffman Stadium after the game chanted it best: "One more game." Unless you're the Orioles, in which case you're hoping for four more games.

But with the Royals up 3-0 -- one win from the World Series -- they turn to lefty Jason Vargas to close it out. It will be his first game since winning Game 1 of the ALDS, during which he pitched six innings and allowed two runs. Opposing him will be right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 28.

 

 

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