Royals use power to top Orioles, 8-6, in 10 innings to take 1-0 lead in ALCS
By By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun|
Oct 11, 2014 | 2:27 AM
"That's why you play the game," said Adam Jones when asked why the Royals hit several home runs. "You never know what's going to happen." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
The rain-soaked crowd at Camden Yards had waited long enough for this moment -- the Orioles' first American League Championship Series game in 17 years -- so when Game 1 went to extra innings, few fans left their seats as the clock struck midnight.
They had waved those orange rally towels through the Orioles' mid-inning comeback from a four-run hole, chanting the team's postseason mantra of "We Won't Stop." And they were raucous after the Orioles escaped a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth.
But the crack of Royals left fielder Alex Gordon's bat in the top of the 10th inning -- and the sight of the ball landing in the right-center-field seats -- silenced Camden Yards. After third baseman Mike Moustakas followed three batters later with a two-run homer, the damage had been done as the Orioles dropped the opening game of the ALCS, 8-6, in front of an announced 47,124 fans at Camden Yards.
"Both teams stayed into it until the last pitch," center fielder Adam Jones said. "Credit goes to both teams for grinding it out. Obviously, they got Game 1, but it's a long series. So we're going to have to come out here tomorrow and get back on our saddles and do what we do best."
Inside the Orioles clubhouse after the game, the game was compared to a boxing match, with teams exchanging jabs throughout a four-hour, 37-minute marathon. But a Royals team that has earned four of its five postseason wins in extra innings dealt the knockout blow in the 10th in uncharacteristic fashion.
After hitting just 95 home runs in the regular season, the fewest in the major leagues, the Royals blasted three off Orioles pitchers Friday and have seven in five postseason games -- all wins for Kansas City. Gordon drove in four runs, including his tie-breaking solo shot in the 10th off right-hander Darren O'Day.
Gordon's homer was the Royals' third go-ahead homer in extra innings this postseason, the most of any team in a single postseason in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Moustakas' two-run shot, which came off left-hander Brian Matusz, was his third of the postseason. The Royals became the first team in major league history to hit three go-ahead homers in extra innings in a single postseason.
Gordon's home run came after O'Day got the Orioles out of the top of the ninth with an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
"It was tough," O'Day said. "That's a hard-fought game by both teams. It's really tough, the highs and lows of playoff baseball. You come in the inning before and got out of a situation you don't expect to get out of, and then just as easy as that, like I'm throwing batting practice, I give up a home run."
One of the Orioles' most dependable late-inning pitchers all season long, O'Day's locker was mobbed with cameras after the game as reporters asked him about going from hero to goat in a span of two batters.
"Everybody can see when we screw up," O'Day said. "You're on the stage. It's where we want to be, there's no question about it. But sometimes you're gonna be on the wrong end of things."
Five of the seven home runs that O'Day has allowed this season, including the postseason, have been hit by left-handed batters.
"I take great pride in being able to get left-handers out," O'Day said. "I've had a pretty good run at it, lately I haven't been. Forget getting them out, you've got to keep guys in the yard, left-[handed], right-handed, you've got to keep the ball in play."
The Orioles answered with a run in the bottom of the 10th on Delmon Young's two-out, pinch-hit RBI single off Royals closer Greg Holland, but the tying run was left on first base when Nick Markakis grounded out to second base to end the game.
Despite the Orioles facing the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth, O'Day helped his team escape the inning without allowing a run to keep the game tied at 5.
Closer Zach Britton walked the bases loaded -- throwing 12 consecutive balls during one stretch -- and manager Buck Showalter pulled him with one out in the ninth for O'Day.
After Britton issued a full-count walk to leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, he walked both Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain on four pitches even though both batters were attempting to bunt. Eric Hosmer grounded to first base, and Steve Pearce quickly threw home for the force out there to prevent a run.
O'Day then came on and induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play from slugger Billy Butler that brought the crowd to its feet.
Down 5-4 in the sixth, the Orioles tied the game on Alejandro De Aza's bloop infield single on a ball that dropped about 75 feet from home plate -- going over reliever Brandon Finnegan's head and falling in the grass between the mound and second base -- to score Jonathan Schoop.
Just before Schoop scored, he was hung up between second and third bases as catcher Salvador Perez threw to second on a pickoff attempt. But Escobar's throw to third hit Schoop in the back, placing runners at second and third.
The Orioles scored three runs in the fifth to make it a one-run game, capped by Flaherty's two-out two-run single off Royals starter James Shields.
Earlier in the inning, Nelson Cruz recorded his 33rd career postseason RBI with a double that hit off the left-field fence, scoring De Aza from second base. With two hits on the night, Cruz has now recorded multiple hits in five straight playoff games, tying the record for most in postseason history.
With the bases loaded, Flaherty laced the first pitch from Shields down the right-field line to score Jones and Cruz.
"It was kind of like a boxing match," Flaherty said. "We kind of got knocked down early, fought our way back in there and just were just a hit away. We knew it was going to be a dogfight."
The Orioles overcame a short night from right-hander Chris Tillman, who lasted just 4 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since a one-inning start June 5 against the Texas Rangers, a span of 22 outings including the postseason.
Tillman started well Friday, getting through the first two innings -- the frames that usually cause him difficulty -- with relative ease. Escobar, who had just three homers this season, put Kansas City up with a solo shot with one out in the third.
Escobar's homer seemed to throw Tillman -- who was working ahead of the Kansas City hitters in the first two innings, throwing six of eight first-pitch strikes -- out of sync. The Orioles right-hander struggled to find the strike zone, throwing seven straight balls at one point.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the inning, Gordon fought off a 3-2 inside pitch from Tillman, the barrel of his bat flinging away as he dropped a bloop double down the right-field line to clear the bases with a three-run double that put the Royals up 4-0.
Gordon also made a diving catch to rob Pearce of extra bases and squash a possible rally by the Orioles in the third.
The Orioles recovered from that deficit, but after Friday's loss, they will have to regroup with a quick turnaround for Saturday's 4 p.m. Game 2 start to avoid going to Kansas City down by two games in the series.
"We've got to win four, and it doesn't matter what four you win," Britton said. "So we'll bounce back tomorrow. We've done it before. … It's win at all costs. You kind of throw out what you did in the regular season out the window and you try to find a way to win."