Royals keep rolling, Giants impress in opener
Thrilling postseason momentum builds with Saturday doubleheader
Stay hot, 2014 postseason, with your bases-loaded jams, diving catches and every game oh-so close, often lasting late into the October night. Just keep it going, because this year's road to the World Series has been paved with golden moments so far.
With the Royals taking a commanding lead in the American League Championship Series, via a second thriller in as many nights in Baltimore, and the Giants riding the left arm of Madison Bumgarner to a National League Championship Series win in St. Louis, a Saturday doubleheader proved to be a compelling next chapter in an epic drama that has been playing out since the first page was turned.
Remember, it was the Royals getting this party started with their wild AL Wild Card victory in the lid-lifter to this year's postseason festivities, and the boys from Kansas City continued to ride that blue wave of momentum with a 6-4 victory over the Orioles in Game 2 of the ALCS. That gives them a 2-0 lead and extends their winning streak to six games this postseason -- nine postseason games overall, dating back to that famous last run in October en route to the 1985 World Series title.
"Our team is very confident, but at the end of the day you've got to go out and do it on the field," said outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who joined Hall of Famer George Brett as the only Royals hitters with a four-hit postseason game, adding another diving catch to the mix. "That's what we've been doing as of late. We've been on a nice run so far."
The nine consecutive postseason wins by the Royals is the longest active streak, one shy of the 10-game streak the Giants had until Game 3 of their Division Series -- that one tied for the third longest ever behind a pair of 12-gamers by the Yankees (1927-32, 1998-99). The Royals join the 2007 Rockies, 1976 Reds and 1970 Orioles as the only clubs with six straight wins to start the playoffs.
In Saturday's postseason nightcap, the Giants kept their winning ways rolling along in the opener at St. Louis, beating the Cardinals and ace Adam Wainwright with early runs and a full dose of Bumgarner's magic touch in October. A 3-0 victory in Game 1 marked the Giants' 11th win in their last 12 postseason games, and San Francisco now has gone 27-10 (.730) since the start of the 2010 postseason -- the session that concluded with their first of two World Series rings.
Bumgarner ran his streak of scoreless postseason innings on the road to 26 2/3, a Major League record. He did it by dominating through the first six and surviving the seventh with a hard tag on Kolten Wong and a near-balk before striking out Tony Cruz for the final out of that frame, then getting the first two outs of the eighth. The man who threw this postseason's only complete-game shutout with an NL Wild Card gem in Pittsburgh put another notch on his postseason belt in St. Louis, with a Major League record, to boot.
"That's pretty cool, obviously, to have any kind of record," Bumgarner said. "I mean, there's stats for everything nowadays. It's just happened to work out that way for whatever reason. I guess I've had a little extra bit of good luck on the road."
While the AL takes a breather Sunday, the Giants and Cardinals will be back at it at Busch Stadium for Game 2. It will be Giants right-hander Jake Peavy taking on the Cardinals' Lance Lynn in an 8 p.m. ET start on Fox, a battle between pitchers who were in the World Series a year ago -- Peavy as a member of the winning Red Sox. With their veteran sure to bring some entertaining intensity on the mound, the Giants look to copy the Royals' mounting momentum as the LCS round continues.
It's not just momentum on the Royals' side -- it's history, too. They're the 25th team to take a 2-0 series lead in either League Championship Series since it became best-of-seven in '85, and only three times has that lead not been enough to punch a ticket to the World Series. Most famously, the 2004 Red Sox rallied from a 3-0 deficit. The only others came in that first year of '85, when the Royals and Cardinals both rallied after falling behind 2-0 on the road.
In building this lead, the Royals took pesky to a new level, running up a record string of 17 consecutive innings with a runner reaching base to start a postseason series, surpassing the previous mark of 15 by the 2002 A's vs. the Twins to start the AL Division Series. A fourth homer of the postseason by Mike Moustakas in the fourth was huge, but just as key was a sacrifice bunt from him that helped plate the game-winner in a two-run ninth inning. Cain's fourth hit of the night provided insurance, and the Royals' remarkable run just kept rolling. Stay hot, indeed.
"They're playing their best baseball of the year right now, and it's sure the best time to play it," Royals manager Ned Yost said.