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Justin Maxwell hits walk-off grand slam, Royals clinch winning season

A great win to finish the year at Kauffman Stadium.

Ed Zurga

Justin Maxwell hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the tenth, giving the Kansas City Royals a 4-0 win over the Texas Rangers and clinching their first winning season since 2003 in their final game of the season at Kauffman Stadium.

Update: was nice enough to upload this video quickly, I think they realized how many people wanted to watch it. Here's Maxwell's homer, for your viewing pleasure:

James Shields was cruising along until the top of the third inning, when David Murphy lined a pitch off his right elbow. Shields recovered and made the play, but trainers immediately left the dugout to check up on the starter. He stayed in the game, and struck out Leonys Martin in the next at-bat, but surrendered singles to Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. Alex Rios followed with a groundout, ending the threat.

It seemed possible that Ned Yost will pull Shields after the third, especially if the elbow injury started to worsen. Fortunately, Shields came back out and showed no ill effects of the injury. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings, giving up six hits. Shields did not look overpowering, only striking out two. He did do a good job throwing strikes, only issuing one walk and throwing 105 pitches.

Shields has been an absolute pleasure to watch pitch this season. He also received some help from Salvador Perez, who threw out two Rangers base runners attempting to steal bases.

Unfortunately, the Royals offense did not fare any better against Alexi Ogando. Ogando breezed through seven shutout innings, only allowing two hits and one walk while striking out five. The Royals showed no patience at the plate; Ogando only tossed 77 pitches.

Greg Holland relieved Shields to start the ninth inning. The right-hander struck out Rios to start the inning, but the third strike bounced away from Perez, allowing Rios to reach base. The outfielder swiped second base, barely beating out Perez's throw thanks to a poor tag by Emilio Bonifacio. That brought Adrian Beltre to the plate with a runner in scoring position and no outs.

Beltre hit a deep flyball to left field, pushing Alex Gordon to the wall. Rios attempted to tag up on the flyball, but Gordon fired the ball to Mike Moustakas, easily throwing out Rios for the second out of the inning.

Holland recorded the final out of the ninth, and Tim Collins tossed a scoreless tenth. The Rangers countered with a 1 1/3 perfect innings from Tanner Scheppers, and Neal Cotts recorded the last two outs of the ninth, sending the game into extras.

Eric Hosmer led off the top of the tenth with a double down the left field line, forcing Cotts from the game. Ron Washington summoned Joakim Soria from the bullpen after the double, the first time the former Royals closer has pitched in Kauffman Stadium as a pitcher.

Soria intentionally walked Billy Butler, bringing Perez to the plate with two runners on and no outs. Perez hit a sharp groundball at Andrus. Andrus dove and knocked out the ball, but could not force out pinch-runner Chris Getz and second base, leaving all three runners safe. That brought Mike Moustakas to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Moustakas hit a weak popout to third base for the first out of the inning. Yost then brought in George Kottaras to pinch-hit for Lorenzo Cain. Kottaras hit a slow grounder to second and Kinsler recorded the second out of the inning, forcing out Hosmer at home.  That brought Maxwell to the plate, who won the game on a no-doubter.

The Royals have clinched their first winning since 2003; not the accomplishment we were hoping for, but still better than another losing season. Kauffman Stadium looked sold out for a second straight game, and the atmosphere looked equally impressive. This team's playoff chances are still essentially non-existent, but the playoff-like atmosphere at the K was awesome. Next year, however, I want that atmosphere to actually take place in the postseason.