MLB Playoff Recap: AL Upstarts Advance

The American League Championship Series will have a Cinderella feel to it, as two underdogs advanced out of the divisional round. The Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles each finished off surprising sweeps on Sunday.

ALDS: Orioles Use Different Late Magic To Complete Sweep

Score: Orioles 2 – Tigers 1

Series: Orioles win 3-0

Game Hero: Nelson Cruz 2-4; two-run homer

Game Summary: The Orioles knocked the Tigers to the mat with two wins in Baltimore and they delivered the KO in Detroit, beating the Tigers, 2-1, to sweep the series. The Orioles didn’t have any eighth inning scoring magic on Sunday, but they had plenty of abracadabra in their bullpen in the ninth.

The first two games of the Tigers-Orioles ALDS were marked by eighth inning scoring outbursts by Baltimore against the porous Detroit bullpen. Tigers’ starter David Price made sure that Baltimore was quiet in the eighth in Game Three by pitching eight strong innings himself. However, his one mistake in the sixth inning wound-up being the difference in the game.

Price and Baltimore starter Bud Norris were locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel when Nelson Cruz came to the plate with Adam Jones at first and one out in the top of the sixth inning. Cruz took a 1-1 pitch on the outside half of the plate down the line in right. The ball was hooking but just stayed fair near the 330 sign for a two-run homer. The homer was Cruz’s second in the series and his 16th career post-season homer.

The homer was all Price would allow, but it was also all Norris would need. Norris lasted into the seventh inning and allowed just two hits and two walks in 6.1. He struck-out six. Norris was originally scheduled to start Game 4, but during the off-day, manager Buck Showalter switched Norris and Miguel Gonzalez in the playoff rotation. Like most of Showalter’s moves this post-season, the starter switch worked perfectly.

After Norris exited in the seventh with a runner at first, lefty Andrew Miller took over and he was flawless in 1.2 innings of work. He recorded the final two outs of the seventh and then retired Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera in order in the eighth.

Baltimore closer Zack Britton came on in the ninth with the O’s still holding a 2-0 lead. Britton immediately ran into trouble when he allowed a lead-off double to Victor Martinez. J.D. Martinez followed with a double of his own and Detroit was suddenly within a run with a runner on second and no outs. Bryan Holaday – in the game because Alex Avila had to exit the game with a concussion – attempted to bunt Martinez over to third. He was unable to get the bunt down and then struck-out.

Showalter again made a gutsy call, electing to put the winning run on by intentionally walking Nick Castellanos to set-up the double-play. Detroit manager Brad Ausmus pinch-hit the scheduled batter Andrew Romine with Hernan Perez. Britton threw Perez a sinking, 96-MPH fastball on an 0-1 count and Perez grounded it to third. The Orioles turned the 5-4-3 double-play to end the game and the series.

What’s Next: The Orioles will move-on to play the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. Baltimore will have home-field advantage. For a fourth straight post-season, the Tigers go home without a World Series title despite a roster filled with stars.

ALDS: Royals Dream Continues To ALCS

Score: Royals 8 – Angels 3

Series: Royals win 3-0

Game Hero: Eric Hosmer, 1-3; two-run homer

Game Summary: With their backs against the wall, the Los Angeles Angels needed a strong start from their big money pitcher, C.J. Wilson. Instead, LA didn’t even get a full inning from the left-hander, as Wilson coughed up an early 1-0 Angels’ lead and left the game with two-outs and three runs in in the first. The Royals would take that lead and run with it, cruising to an 8-3 win and a 3-0 series sweep.

After scoring just three runs in the first two games of the series, the Angels looked like they had a little life when Mike Trout hit a solo homerun in the top of the first. The homer was Trout’s first hit of the post-season. The lead didn’t last long, however. In the bottom of the first, Wilson allowed back-to-back one-out singles and a two-out walk before giving up a bases-clearing double to Alex Gordon. That double ended Wilson’s night and gave the Royals a lead they would never relinquish.

Kansas City stretched the lead to 5-1 when Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer off reliever Hector Santiago in the third. The homer was Hosmer’s second of the series. Albert Pujols homered off Royals’ starter James Shields to make it 5-2 in the fourth, but LA would get no closer. Mike Moustakas hit a solo homerun and Lorenzo Cain hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth and the rout was on. Nori Aoki drove-in Omar Infante in the sixth to give the Royals their final run. Shields and the KC bullpen would take it the rest of the way.

Shields wasn’t dominant, but he didn’t have to be on this night. He allowed two runs on six hits in six innings in the win. He struck-out six. Kelvin Herrera returned after missing Game Two with right forearm soreness to toss a scoreless seventh inning. Wade Davis allowed a run in the eighth, but Greg Holland worked a quick one-two-three ninth to punch the Royals’ ticket to the ALCS.

KC did a little bit of everything in the win. They hit for power (two homers and a double). They were patient (five walks). They flashed the leather on defense. And they even saw their slowest runner (Billy Butler) steal a base. The Angels never had a chance to get back into the game after they lost their first-inning lead.

What’s Next: The Royals will travel to Baltimore for what has to be one of the most unlikely pairings for an ALCS in recent memory. The Angels travel home after a very disappointing post-season. The AL’s best regular season offense scored just six runs in three games that spanned 31 innings.

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