Royals Relentless, Bumgarner Flawless

The Kansas City Royals' magical run through the post-season continued on Saturday with yet another late-inning rally for a win over the Baltimore Orioles. The San Francisco Giants' road dominance also continued, as Madison Bumgarner led a shutout win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

ALCS: Late-Inning Magic Continues for KC

Score: Royals 6 – Orioles 4

Series: Royals lead 2-0

Game Hero: Lorenzo Cain; 4-5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB, two outstanding defensive plays

Game Summary: The game didn’t go extra-innings, but Game Two of the ALCS was otherwise a carbon copy of Game One. Like in Game One, Kansas City jumped out to an early lead they couldn’t hold, and, like in Game One, the Royals used a late-inning rally to stun the Orioles. Now Kansas City returns home with a commanding 2-0 lead and a chance to clinch the AL pennant in front of the home fans.

The starting pitching in Game Two wasn’t crisp and that was apparent from the first inning. The game began with Royals’ lead-off hitter Alcides Escobar lining a ball back up the middle that Orioles starter Bud Norris snared for the first out. Nori Aoki followed with a single and Lorenzo Cain quickly put the Royals in business with a double that moved Aoki to third. Eric Hosmer then connected on arguably the weakest hit ball of the inning, but the blooper found the grass past the dive of J.J. Hardy in shallow left-field. That hit drove-in two and the Royals were up 2-0 before Baltimore even had a chance to face KC starter Yordano Ventura.

Ventura had a quiet first inning, but he ran into trouble in the bottom of the second. He walked Nelson Cruz to start the inning. Steve Pearce hit into a force out, but Hardy and Flaherty then walked to load the bases with one-out. The struggling Caleb Joseph connected on a medium deep flyball to straightaway center that scored Pearce.

Norris’ struggles continued in the top of the third. He got two quick outs but then allowed back-to-back singles to Cain and Hosmer before allowing a Billy Butler RBI double to extend the Royals’ lead to 3-1. The Royals elected not to send Hosmer home on the double, and he and Butler would be stranded at second and third when Hosmer struck-out looking.

The Orioles wasted no time getting back into the game. With one-out, Alejandro De Aza hit a groundball double down-the-line to right. Adam Jones didn’t waste the opportunity with the runner in scoring position. On a 2-0 pitch, Jones crushed Ventura’s 95 MPH offering into the left-field bleachers, tying the game.

For every move the Orioles made in the game, it seemed the Royals had an answer, however. In the top of the fourth, Norris retired the first two batters before Mike Moustakas stepped to the plate. Moustakas, who hit just .212 with 15 homers this season and spent part of the year in Triple-A, crushed a 2-2 pitch over the high wall in right field, his fourth homerun of the post-season. The solo homer gave the Royals back the lead at 4-3.

The Orioles would tie it up in the bottom of the fifth, although they had an opportunity to score more runs than they did. With one out, De Aza and Jones reached on back-to-back singles, with De Aza moving to third on Jones’ hit. Cruz came to the plate with a chance to do some damage to the Royals’ hopes. He hit a sharp groundball to the hole between third and short that Escobar ranged far to field. Escobar made a jump throw to second for the force. Omar Infante made a throw to first, but Cruz beat it out to prevent the double-play and tie the game. However, the rally ended with a Pearce fly out.

The bottom of the sixth saw no scoring but had plenty of drama. It began with Cain making a diving catch in right-center, robbing Hardy of a lead-off double. One out later, Ventura had to be removed from the game with what was later revealed to be right shoulder soreness. Ventura suffered right forearm tightness in the ALDS. His status for later in the series remains to be determined.

The bullpens took over in the middle part of the game, and the game remained tied until the top of the ninth. The Orioles’ Andrew Miller threw another dominant 1.2 innings, striking out one and not allowing a hit. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis did what they have done all year for KC, throwing a scoreless seventh and eighth, respectively.

In the top of the ninth, Darren O’Day – who allowed the game-winning homerun in Game One – squared off against Infante to start the inning. Infante rolled over on a sinker, but his soft grounder was well placed and Flaherty’s barehanded throw was late. Royals’ speedster Terrence Gore took over for Infante as a pinch-runner. Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter countered with left-hander Zach Britton. The Orioles’ closer had a rough Game One, walking three in the ninth before being bailed out by O’Day. Moustakas, who struggles against left-handers, bunted to move Gore to second. Escobar then took a Britton offering the other way, doubling down the right field line, scoring Gore easily. The Royals then added an insurance run when Jarrod Dyson reached on a fielding error by Flaherty and Cain singled to left to drive in Escobar.

KC closer Greg Holland came on in the ninth to protect the two-run lead. Like in Game One, he quickly retired the first two batters before introducing a little two-out drama. With two-outs, Cruz singled to center, bringing the tying run to the plate in the person of Pearce. Pearce battled Holland but he eventually struck-out swinging, ending the game.

What’s Next: The ALCS now moves to Kansas City, where the Royals will have three chances to win two games and clinch the pennant at home. The Royals will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound for his first post-season start this season. Wei-Yin Chen will take the hill in a game the Orioles must win. Chen had a strong regular season, but he struggled during his ALDS start versus Detroit.

NLCS: Bumgarner Cruises, Giants Capitalize on Mistakes

Score: Giants 3 – Cardinals 0

Series: Giants lead 1-0

Game Hero: Madison Bumgarner; 7.2 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K

Game Summary: In a post-season that has seen several big name starting pitchers come up short, Madison Bumgarner has been dominant. He threw a shutout in the Wild Card game, was one bad defensive play away from throwing 7 scoreless innings in the division series and then threw 7.2 nearly flawless innings in the first game of the NLCS. The Cardinals needed to be perfect to keep pace with Bumgarner, but early defensive miscues put them in a hole they never recovered from in the 3-0 San Francisco win.

Despite worries about the health of his elbow, Adam Wainwright got the call for St. Louis for the Game One start. He ran into trouble in the top of the second, thanks in part to a leaky Cardinals’ defense. The inning began when Pablo Sandoval hit a 2-2 pitch to deep right. Randal Grichuk made what appeared to be a leaping catch at the wall, but he hit the wall hard and the ball trickled out of his glove. Sandoval would wind-up at second with a double. Wainwright then walked Hunter Pence and allowed a single to Brandon Belt that loaded the bases with no-outs. Brandon Crawford, who hit a grandslam in the Wild Card game, struck-out after going up 2-0 on the count. Travis Ishikawa then hit a bloop that fell between the shortstop Jhonny Peralta and left fielder Matt Holliday, scoring Sandoval. Bumgarner lined out for the second out of the inning and it looked like Wainwright would get out of the inning relatively unscathed. However, third baseman Matt Carpenter booted a Gregor Blanco groundball, allowing a second run to score.

With Wainwright’s pitch count rising, he ran into trouble again in the third. Buster Posey and Sandoval hit back-to-back singles to start the inning. Pence grounded into a force out that put runners on the corners with one out. Wainwright got two strikes on Belt but couldn’t put him away. On a 3-2 pitch, Belt hit a flyball to center that scored Posey to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.

Bumgarner didn’t need much support and a 3-0 lead seemed like an 8-0 lead for much of the night. He allowed single base-runners in the fourth and the fifth and that was it before the bottom of the seventh. With one-out, Yadier Molina and Jon Jay each singled, giving the Cardinals their first runner in scoring position on the night. That brought to the plate Kolten Wong, who was the hero in Game Three of the NLDS. Wong hit a ground ball to first that was fielded by Belt. Belt fed Bumgarner, who ran into Wong as he was tagging Wong out. The Cardinals challenged the ruling, claiming Bumgarner had obstructed with Wong’s ability to reach first base. The out call was upheld, leaving runners on second and third with two-outs.

Tony Cruz stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher Randy Choate. Before Bumgarner made his 2-2 pitch, he came to a set and appeared to commit a balk as he stepped off to talk to Posey. The umpires didn’t call it, however, costing the Cardinals a run. Bumgarner struck-out Cruz on the next pitch, ending the rally and squelching the Cardinals’ best scoring opportunity of the night.

Bumgarner hit for himself in the top of the eighth and retired the first two batters in the bottom of the inning before being relieved by Sergio Romo. Romo retired Holliday on a flyball to center to end the inning. Santiago Casilla made quick work of St. Louis in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win.

What’s Next: The Cardinals will turn to Lance Lynn in Game Two to try to salvage one of the two home games before the series moves to San Francisco. The Giants will counter with Jake Peavy. San Francisco has won all four road post-season games this October and Bumgarner set an MLB record with 24 scoreless innings on the road in a post-season.

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