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Known for their speed, Royals bring clutch HRs in Game 1 vs. Orioles

The Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas, left, celebrates with Salvador Perez after hitting a two-run home run in the 10th inning against the Orioles in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Camden Yards.
The Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas, left, celebrates with Salvador Perez after hitting a two-run home run in the 10th inning against the Orioles in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Camden Yards. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

So much for the Kansas City Royals living up to their reputation as a light-hitting, fleet-footed team that manufactured runs with typical Midwest small-ball.

The Orioles found out Friday night and early Saturday morning what the Los Angeles Angels learned with great difficulty during Kansas City's three-game sweep in the American League Division Series.

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Three home runs later -- including two in the top of the 10th inning -- helped give the Royals an 8-6 victory at Camden Yards in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series.

Left fielder Alex Gordon, whose earlier heroics included a broken-bat, bases-clearing bloop double in the third inning that gave the Royals an early 5-1 lead and a diving catch in the bottom of the inning off Steve Pearce's liner in the gap, led off the 10th with a home run into the right-field stands off Darren O'Day.

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Third baseman Mike Moustakas, whose two home runs against the Angels helped propel the Royals into the ALCS, greeted Brian Matusz with a two-run home run to help silence the Orioles and their fans. The Royals, who hit a major-league-low 95 home runs during the regular season, have seven in the playoffs.

While the sudden power surge doesn't change who the Royals are in the eyes of their manager, Ned Yost said his team had some help from the configurations of Camden Yards, if not from Orioles pitchers.

"This is a park that's a lot more conducive to hitting home runs than our ballpark [Kauffman Stadium] is," Yost said. "You put our club in this ballpark, and we would have hit a lot more home runs than we ended up hitting. It showed tonight. It was a good night."

Yost doesn't believe that the home runs hit by the Royals will change the complexion of the series since the Orioles, who led the majors with 211 during the regular season and had four themselves during their ALDS sweep of the Detroit Tigers, didn't hit any Friday night.

"I don't know, we just find ways to win ballgames," Yost said. "Sometimes it's hitting home runs, sometimes it's stealing bases and manufacturing runs. Most of the time it's with good pitching and defense. These guys will find a way to get it done."

Gordon, whose night also included getting hit in the helmet and neck by a 97 mph fastball from Orioles reliever Andrew Miller, said he wasn't looking to hit one out against O'Day.

"Just leading off the inning, especially in extras, I was just trying to put a good at-bat together, get on base and do what I could," Gordon said. "Sometimes you get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it and those things happen. Usually when you're not trying to hit a home run, that's when you do it."

Gordon wasn't aware of the recent struggles O'Day has had in surrendering home runs to left-handed hitters.

"I didn't know he was struggling at all, every time we face him, he seems to get us out," Gordon said. "He's a tough pitcher and I'm sure he'll be tough the rest of the series."

Asked if the Royals are suddenly starting to show themselves capable of adding to their repertoire with home runs, Gordon said: "We know we're capable of hitting home runs. We didn't do it during the regular season, but it doesn't really matter. Now it's the postseason, and we're starting to swing the bats a lot better. Up and down the lineup, we're feeling pretty good about ourselves."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn't surprised, considering what the Royals did to the Angels in the ALDS.

"They've been hitting home runs lately," he said.

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