Royals ride defense, Mike Moustakas' 11th-inning homer to 3-2 win over Angels in ALDS Game 1
Mike Trout's not-all-that-long wait to play postseason baseball came to an end on Thursday night. The Angels and their 23-year-old wunderkind played host to the Royals in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. KC, fresh off its dramatic AL Wild Card win over the A's on Tuesday, sought to beat its second AL West team of the week.
The team charged Jason Vargas with that task. The soft-tossing lefty would be making his first October start after nine Major League seasons and would oppose Angels No. 1 starter Jered Weaver at Angel Stadium.
Some sharp defense kept the game scoreless into the third, until Alcides Escobar doubled just out of Josh Hamilton's reach with two outs. Mike Moustakas, who drew a walk moments prior, scored from first on the play.
Chris Iannetta earned that run right back for Los Angeles in the bottom of the third. He got ahold of a Vargas changeup up in the zone and parked it into the Angels bullpen in left field, tying the score at 1.
After Alex Gordon doubled -- on a ball that Trout seemingly lost in the lights -- and scored in the fifth, the Angels tied it up again, 2-2, in the bottom half of the inning. David Freese turned on a fastball inside and lined it over the wall in left.
The Angels threatened in the sixth and seventh innings, but in both instances L.A.'s batters hit long fly balls that right fielder Nori Aoki totally, definitely, no-questions-asked had under control the whole time.
First, Aoki caught Howie Kendrick's drive despite slamming face-first into the wall. An inning later, and with a man on third, Aoki took a questionable route on C.J. Cron's fly ball but dove to save a run.
Nori Aoki has circled the entire Angel Stadium trying to track down three flyballs tonight.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) October 3, 2014
A gaggle of seven Kansas City relievers combined for five scoreless innings, including 1 1/3 from Wade Davis. He worked around two walks in the eighth and struck out Kendrick to end the inning. The Angels second baseman didn't have much of a chance at the 98-mph fastball away.
Davis was, well, pumped.
Moustakas hit the game-winning homer leading off the top of the 11th -- pulling Fernando Salas' low changeup into the first row of seats in right -- and the Angels fans responded as you might expect. As far as the Royals were concerned, though, those boos might as well have been chants for "Moose."
This is only the 3rd time in postseason history that both teams' starting No. 9 hitters hit a HR in the same game.— Paul Casella (@paul_casella) October 3, 2014
The Game Changer
KC manager Ned Yost's bullpen management in the late innings -- specifically, going to Tim Collins, Jason Frasor and Danny Duffy in the ninth and 10th -- left room for criticism, but it ultimately worked out.
Those decisions saved closer Greg Holland for the 11th, after the Royals took the lead, and Holland made quick work of the three Angels he faced. He retired Gordon Beckham (strikeout swinging), Erick Aybar (strikeout swinging) and Josh Hamilton (infield pop-up) in order to end it.
Other Key Players, Plays
Vargas' night started with a booming fly ball off the bat of Kole Calhoun, but Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain reeled it in with a leaping catch at the wall. Cain then robbed Erick Aybar of a base hit in the second inning with a sliding grab.
Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera, who has been a shutdown setup man most of the season, exited after walking the only batter he faced (Freese) in the seventh. He is expected to be reevaluated Friday.
Herrera left the game with right forearm tightness. Uh-oh.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) October 3, 2014
These teams get right back at it with Game 2 on Friday, and this time a pair of rookies will get the spotlight. First pitch is scheduled for 9:30 ET at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Angels righty Matt Shoemaker, fresh off a rookie season in which he posted a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, will pitch for the first time since Sept. 15 when he goes against KC right-hander Yordano Ventura. Ventura last started on Sunday, but he allowed two runs while recording one out (13 pitches) in a relief appearance Tuesday.