Royals off to a fine start
Who needs to hit baseballs to the outfield? Alcides Esocbar led off with what seemed like the 287th infield hit of the series for the Royals. Nori Aoki was hit by a pitch and hot-hitting Lorenzo Cain bunted. What? Cain’s sacrifice put runners on second and third. Both scored on Eric Hosmer’s grounder to first, when catcher Caleb Joseph pivoted for the tag at home, the ball came loose, and Escobar slid through his mitt.
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The difference is defense
One grounder summed up the difference between the teams. Nelson Cruz led off with a walk, and Delmon Young followed with a bleeder up the middle. It was similar to the ball hit by Escobar for a single the inning before. However, Escobar fielded the ball, stepped on second and turned a double play that quelled the threat. One ground ball led to two runs for the Royals. One ground ball for the Orioles led to two outs.
Big blast by the Orioles
Ryan Flaherty got the Orioles on the board as he launched a 411-foot home run to right field. Aoki took a few steps back initially, but there was no doubt about the ball. Vargas shook off the home run and retired the next three in order. Hosmer singled in the Royals’ half of the inning, but it was with two outs, and he was forced at second on a grounder by Butler.
Escobar turns two
Escobar made it look easy again. Adam Jones led off the inning by drawing a walk. After a strikeout, Young hit a grounder to Escobar at short. He waved off Infante and stepped on the bag at second, then threw to first to complete the double play. It was the second time that Young had grounded into a 6-3 double play. Gordon walked for the Royals but was doubled off when he took off on a steal and Salvador Perez popped out to the pitcher.
Rally fizzles for Royals
The boos filled the air momentarily before the fans began chanting “BIL-LY BU-TLER!” Aoki reached on a fielder’s choice, took second on a wild pitch and moved to third when Cain’s scorcher up the middle turned into a 1-4-3 out. The Orioles wanted no part of Hosmer and intentionally walked him. That’s when the boos came. But they turned to cheers of encouragement for Butler. Alas, he grounded into a force-out.
Two opportunities, but no runs
Ryan Schoop led off the inning with a walk, and after Markakis struck out, Kelvin Herrera was summoned. He got a pop-up for the second out, but Jones hit a flare to right, and Schoop scooted to third. Nervous? Cruz lined a shot right at Infante at second. The Royals had runners at first and second with one out, but Moustakas struck out and Escobar grounded out to second base.
Quiet before the storm
Both teams went down in order, but there was a different demeanor among the two clubs. The Orioles disagreed with calls made by home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa, shaking their heads at times when a strike was called. Meanwhile, the Royals’ three outs merely meant the team was three outs closer to being crowned the American League champion.
Three outs recorded, three outs to go
Wade Davis worked around a two-out single by Markakis and Steve Pearce hit a sharp grounder down the third-base line. But it went straight to Moustakas. In the bottom half, Butler led off with a line double in the left-center gap and Terrance Gore came on to run. After Gordon struck out, Perez grounded to second. Gore took third and Infante was walked. Alas, Moustakas popped out.
American League champions!?!?!!
The Royals couldn’t make it too easy on fans, right? Greg Holland came on to close out the game and walked the first batter he faced. Cruz reached on a fielder’s choice, and Alejandro De Aza ran for him. Young struck out, and then J.J. Hardy’s grounder was gobbled up by Moustakas, whose throw to first was true. With that, the Royals had won the American League championship.