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Hosmer's drive has Royals in 2-0 driver's seat

October 4, 2014

ANAHEIM -- Propelled by Eric Hosmer's clutch two-run homer, the Royals are going home needing just one victory to win the American League Division Series. And they don't doubt that they can do it. They feel like they have something extra.The gritty Kansas Citians became the first club in postseason

ANAHEIM -- Propelled by Eric Hosmer's clutch two-run homer, the Royals are going home needing just one victory to win the American League Division Series. And they don't doubt that they can do it. They feel like they have something extra.
The gritty Kansas Citians became the first club in postseason history to win three straight extra-inning games when they put away the Angels in 11 innings, 4-1, on a steamy 93-degree Friday night.
Only five teams (in 44 attempts) have come back from an 0-2 deficit in Division Series play -- most recently, the World Series-champion Giants in 2012. The last team to do so in the AL was the 2003 Red Sox, who overcame the A's. Of the 13 AL teams that fell behind 0-2 since, only two have forced Game 5, and seven were swept.
Hosmer's home run stunned a red-hued sellout crowd, 45,361 this time, for the second straight night. On Thursday night it was Mike Moustakas' home run that won the game, 3-2, also in the 11th inning.
"We're tough to put away," Hosmer said. "I know we're going to be battling until the last out, but it's fun. It's fun to be the underdog. It's fun to realize you can go out there and play, you don't have anything to lose and just let it all on the line."
Hosmer came up in the 11th against reliever Kevin Jepsen just after Lorenzo Cain legged out a one-out bouncer to shortstop and beat Erick Aybar's throw -- barely.
"Just hustling out of the box and finding a way to get on base for Hosmer," Cain said.
The Royals clocked Cain getting down the line in 3.81 seconds, his fastest time on a swing all season. He was flying.
In the dugout, Billy Butler and his teammates wore rally caps stuck ridiculously askew on their craniums, acting like devoted fans.
"It worked," Butler said, grinning.
Sure enough, Hosmer sent Jepsen's next pitch soaring over the right-field wall, snapping a 1-1 tie. It was a no-doubter.
"I think everybody in the stadium knew that ball was gone," said Jarrod Dyson. "He crushed that ball."
Jepsen could only watch forlornly.
"Not much of a sequence, first pitch," Jepsen said. "I was just trying to make a good pitch, fastball down and away. I left it [in the] middle, and he jumped on it. It's one of those things. I missed, he didn't. Two-run homer, and that was it."
Before the inning was over, the Royals added an unearned run. Alex Gordon walked, stole second and took third on the catcher's throwing error, then scored on Salvador Perez's infield single off Vinnie Pestano.
That was plenty to send the Royals flying home toward Sunday's Game 3 and their date with a sure-to-be-blue Kansas City. Just five other teams have won three extra-inning games in a single postseason, and all of them went on to win the World Series, most recently the 2004 Red Sox.
"The confidence is high right now," Cain said. "The momentum is definitely on our side, and we're going back home to what I know is going to be an electric crowd at KC. So I'm excited to get back there and get this win."
The Royals will have James Shields, a.k.a. Big Game James, ready to pitch.
"We feel real good, man," Dyson said. "We've got our ace going, and we're up two games in the series and need just one more win. We're going to go out there and lay it all on the line."
Manager Ned Yost said before the game that he wanted to get seven innings out of his starting pitcher, rookie Yordano Ventura, because his guardian of the seventh inning, Kelvin Herrera, was out of commission. And that's exactly what he got -- seven innings, with just one run given up.
"Wow, I mean, what a job he did," Yost said. "Came in, he threw fastballs at 101 miles an hour, two-seamers at 97 miles an hour."
Yost couldn't stop talking about Ventura.
"A kid with tremendous composure on the big stage. A kid that competes his heart out, with tremendous stuff," he added.
Ventura said that his goal had been to give the Royals those seven innings.
"I knew Kelvin was down, so there was a focus on being aggressive and keeping my pitch count down and at least get to the seventh so I could pass the ball on to Wade [Davis] and to Greg [Holland], who have been excellent all season."
That happened eventually, although not in the usual precise order.
Davis got through his customary eighth inning thanks to a tremendous throw by Dyson, who had just entered the game for defensive reasons. After C.J. Cron led off with a double, pinch-runner Collin Cowgill tried for third after Dyson caught Chris Iannetta's fly ball.
Dyson nailed him with a perfect throw to Moustakas at third base for a double play.
Jason Frasor pitched a perfect ninth, rookie Brandon Finnegan added a scoreless 10th and, after Hosmer's blast and the three-run 11th, Holland marched out of the bullpen.
There was only a slight delay in getting the save, a two-out error, but Holland put on a finishing touch by striking out the AL's favorite to be the Most Valuable Player, Mike Trout, who happens to be 0-for-8 in this series.
Now the series shifts to Kansas City, where folks must now be having giddy thoughts of another World Series like 1985. There may be a few obstacles to hurdle first, but these guys are on a roll, and they always seem to be able to do something extra.
"Hoz stepped up huge for us, and going home to that crowd in Kansas City with 'Juego' on the mound, it's going to be an electric atmosphere," Moustakas said, "and we're just real excited to get back home and play in front of those fans."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for