Royals follow blueprint to take 3-0 ALCS lead

Pitching, defense, timely hitting put KC on verge of World Series

October 14th, 2014

KANSAS CITY -- Mike Moustakas tumbling into a group of fans to make a spectacular catch, causing the Blue Zoo to erupt in a sonic-boom roar. What could be more typically spectacular for this unexpectedly unbridled Royals team?
Using the defense of Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, their rock-solid bullpen and just enough offense, the Kansas City upstarts stung the Baltimore Orioles, 2-1, on Tuesday night to come within one victory of the World Series.
The Royals have a 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series and can clinch a third trip to the Fall Classic with a victory on Wednesday. They also went in 1980 and 1985.
"We're almost there, man," said Jarrod Dyson, who scored the winning run. "We're almost at the Promised Land, but we've still got to go out tomorrow and play like it's our last."
History is on their side. There have been 33 previous best-of-seven postseason series in which a team had a 3-0 lead and only once did it evaporate. Of those, 27 ended in a sweep. Three went to a fifth game and two to a sixth game. The only time a 3-0 series reached a Game 7 was in 2004 when the Red Sox won the last four games to stun the Yankees.
After Jeremy Guthrie pitched the first five innings, the Royals' bullpen of Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined for four perfect innings to wrap it up.
"You're up 3-0 and you're at home. We couldn't ask for a better scenario," said Billy Butler, who drove Dyson home with a sacrifice fly.
Nori Aoki got the Royals started toward snapping a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning against left-hander Wei-Yin Chen with a single to left field. Dyson pinch-ran for Aoki, stayed put as Cain struck out, but took third on Hosmer's single to right.
That prompted the Orioles to pull Chen for right-hander Kevin Gausman.
The first thing that Gausman tried was to pick off Dyson. The old fake-to-third-and-throw-to-first trick was outlawed this year. But Gausman did the reverse. He stepped off, faked to first and then fired to third baseman Ryan Flaherty. Dyson barely got back.
"They tried to get me right there, hoping I'd go down the line. He tried to come over and knock me off the bag a little bit, but I did a great job by keeping my hand on the bag. Billy did a great job getting me in," Dyson said.
Once that move didn't work, Gausman turned his attention to Butler.
"I'm trying to definitely get a hit, but you've got get underneath the ball," Butler said. "Gausman comes in throwing a really hard sinker, so you've really got to get underneath it. So I got the job done there and I know with Dyson on third, it doesn't have to be tremendously deep, either."
Left fielder Alejandro De Aza had no shot at throwing out Dyson, who scored with ease.
Moose drops in on fans: Moustakas joined Royals fans in the third-base dugout suite, hoisting himself up and over the rail as he snagged Adam Jones' sky-high foul ball in the sixth inning. He tumbled in, but held the ball and umpire Brian Gorman, peering down on him, signaled an out while the crowd went ballistic.
"I knew the wind was blowing out hard to right, so I was just talking to myself, hoping it would blow back. It blew back just enough for me to make the play," Moustakas said.
Earlier, in the fourth, Moustakas prompted Moose calls with his diving stab of Steven Pearce's liner -- a typical Moose in the dirt play.
"From where I was standing, I didn't see any way he could get a glove on that ball," manager Ned Yost said. "Just tremendous reactions; made a tremendous play on that."

Raising Cain in the outfield: Cain was up to his usual tricks, too. Playing center field, he ranged deep into right-center for Nick Hundley's drive with two runners on base in the third. After moving to right field, he raced into foul ground to catch Nelson Cruz's fly in the ninth.
"The wind was blowing out to right. It was definitely pushing the ball to right-center," Cain said of the Hundley play. "Longest run I've had in a while, but I have to get there."

Wizard of Hoz's magic: Hosmer was all over the place at first base. He made a diving stop on a Cruz grounder in the second inning and dove to the bag to get an out. In the third, he speared De Aza's grounder, tagged the bag and tried for a second out, but shortstop Alcides Escobar bobbled the ball.

Behind at last: After not trailing at the end of 55 consecutive innings, the Royals found themselves behind, 1-0, in the second inning. Pearce doubled off the wall to left center against Guthrie, followed by J.J. Hardy's double to deep right-center. The last time KC trailed after a complete inning was 7-6 to the A's at the end of eight in the Wild Card game.
Fat chance turns thin: Loading the bases against Chen with one out in the fourth resulted in just one run. Cain and Hosmer both fisted short singles into the outfield and Butler walked. But only Cain scored as Alex Gordon rolled out and Salvador Perez popped out.

Guthrie, pitching for the first time in 18 days, started and went just five innings and gave up one run and three hits. But the Orioles worked him hard, fouling off pitch after pitch, and he was forced to throw 94 pitches before giving way to Frasor for the sixth inning.
Frasor pitched a 1-2-3 inning and, when the Royals scored in the bottom half, he got credit for the victory. Then came the Backend Boys. Herrera pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. Davis delivered a perfect eighth. Holland got all three batters in the ninth and the save.
"These guys have been tremendous," Holland said of his bullpen pals. "We take pride in expecting to win when the game's tied and we go to the bullpen. We kind of take it as a challenge, as our bullpen versus their bullpen. I know you're facing their hitters, but when it comes to the battle of the bullpens, we take pride in coming out on top."

ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS The Royals are just the third team to win their first seven games in a single postseason. The others were the 1976 Reds and the 2007 Rockies. The Royals could be the first to win eight in a row.
Counting 1985, the Royals have won 10 straight postseason games. The Yankees hold the record with 12 straight, accomplishing it twice, with World Series sweeps in 1927, 1928 and 1932 and again in the 1998-99 postseasons.

• The Royals bullpen's four perfect innings matched the postseason record for most innings pitched by a bullpen without allowing a single baserunner. The only other time a bullpen tossed at least four innings and did not allow a baserunner is when the Cardinals did it in Game 3 of the 2011 National League Championship Series against the Brewers. Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Mark Rzepczynski and Jason Motte tossed four perfect innings in relief of Chris Carpenter in a 4-3 victory.
• The Royals have scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning or later in six of their seven postseason victories. The exception was the AL Division Series Game 3 against the Angels.
• The Royals are now 67-4 when leading after six innings. They were 65-4 in the regular season and 2-0 in October.

Game 4 of the ALCS will start on Wednesday at 3 p.m. CT at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium on TBS. Left-hander Jason Vargas will start for the Royals, matched against Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.