Angels can't convert, drop Game 1 on homer in 11th
Iannetta, Freese go deep, but Halos denied by lack of clutch hit, KC D
ANAHEIM -- Four straight times the Angels had the leadoff runner on in the late innings of Thursday night's game, poised to hand a lead over to the back end of their bullpen and pick up the first game in this American League Division Series. Four straight times they came up short, paving the way for the Royals' No. 9 hitter, Mike Moustakas, to decide Game 1 with an 11th-inning solo homer that stunned a sold-out crowd and handed the Angels a bitter 3-2 loss.
The Angels' high-powered offense, the one that led the Majors in runs and can be their driving force in this postseason, couldn't pull through against Kansas City's devastating relief corps.
"It happens," third baseman David Freese said. "It is what it is. It's a tough loss. We battled and missed some chances, but you have to hand it to them. They made the plays. Aoki was running around like a mad man out there."
Freese was talking about the Royals' right fielder, Nori Aoki, who took several adventurous routes on fly balls that somehow ended up in his glove.
The biggest, most disheartening one came in the sixth, with two on and two outs and the game tied at 2. Howie Kendrick lifted a deep fly ball to right-center field, and Aoki and Lorenzo Cain -- the speedy center fielder who made two nifty catches earlier -- converged. Aoki leaped behind Cain, took his eye off the ball, stabbed his glove against the fence and somehow came up with it.
"Out of all of the things in the world that can happen on that play," Kendrick said, shaking his head. "He made a great play. You see some crazy things happen."
How's this for crazy? Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Kendrick -- who batted cleanup -- went a combined 0-for-18 and stranded nine baserunners in the first postseason game at Angel Stadium in four years, 11 months and 10 days.
Hamilton said "the game was moving a little fast" after he played in only one of the last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side. Trout, 23 and in his first postseason, admitted he was nervous early on, "But after that first at-bat I was fine."
"It's not about me, Josh, Trout, Howie," Pujols said. "It's about this organization. We win as a team, we lose as a team. It just didn't happen today."
After Jered Weaver provided seven gutsy innings of two-run ball to match his good friend, Jason Vargas, in a battle off soft-tossing starters -- and before Fernando Salas' 11th-inning changeup hung up a little too high to Moustakas -- came a seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th inning that produced four Angels leadoff runners and zero runs.
The first three were burned on sacrifice bunts, with Hamilton unable to come through twice against lefties after Erick Aybar moved the runner over and Kole Calhoun popping up a bunt attempt despite facing a 3-1 count. The fourth came with the top of the order up in the 10th inning. Calhoun singled against Danny Duffy, but Trout hit a fielder's-choice groundout, Pujols flied out and Kendrick struck out.
"We had our shots tonight," Calhoun said. "We had some situations where we were one swing away from ending the game or taking the lead."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia chose to go with Salas for the top of the 11th, instead of Jason Grilli or Mike Morin.
"That's one of the roles he pitches in," Scioscia said, "and we had a lot of confidence in anybody we're going to bring out."
Salas wanted to stay down on Moustakas, knowing he's still got power to hit the ball out, but the reliever's 1-1 changeup didn't sink as much as he wanted it to, and it snuck just over the tall fence in right field for the Royals' first hit since the start of the fifth inning.
"It wasn't exactly where I wanted it, but you have to give him credit, he made good contact," Salas said in Spanish.
"We've got a bunch of guys on that bench that can get a bag, so I was doing whatever I could to find a way on base," Moustakas said after belting the Royals' first ever postseason home run in extra innings. "Threw me the first pitch, it was a good pitch. Got another pitch, and I was able to square it up."
Weaver, expected to come back on short rest to pitch Game 4 on Monday, gave up only an Alcides Escobar RBI double, an Omar Infante sac fly and two other hits in seven innings. He recorded six strikeouts against the team with the fewest strikeouts in the Majors this season, while throwing 21 of his 100 pitches at 70 mph or below.
Then he watched his offense continually give away opportunities.
"We had opportunities, and that's a positive," said Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, who teamed with Freese to hit the home runs that provided the Angels with their only runs. "On the negative side of it, we didn't get the job done. But if we keep getting opportunities, more times than not, we'll get it done."