Kansas City jumped out to an early lead in the third inning on the strength of a Hercules Escobar home run, followed by a bases-clearing broken-bat double by Alex Gordon. Baltimore scored one in the bottom half of the frame, making the score 4-1 Royals after three. In the fifth, Kansas City added a run via more conventional means in the fifth; Lorenzo Cain hustled into second on a double and scored from third on a Billy Butler sacrifice fly.
In the bottom half of the inning, though, the evidence for the prosecution in the federal case James Shields V. Not A Good Playoff Pitcher is mounting, as he yielded four hits including a double and gave up three runs to bring the game to a 5-4 standoff. Shields has pitched sixteen innings this postseason and has given up ten runs for a 5.63 ERA. For his career, his postseason ERA is 5.19 in 50.1 innings.
Finnegan relieved Shields to start the sixth and immediately gave up three base runners without recording an out. Baltimore scored the tying run on a Royals single that landed in no man's land behind the pitching mound just in front of a diving Escobar. Herrera relieved Finnegan and pitched two perfect innings with two strike outs.
In the top of the seventh inning, the umpires gifted Baltimore three outs. After Norichika Aoki drew a walk to lead off the inning, Jarrod Dyson came in to pinch run. After an interminable amount of pickoff attempts, Dyson made his way to second and beat the throw, which was wide and to the third base side. Jonathan Schoop retrieved the ball and applied a late tag on Dyson, who slid past the base but was able to maintain contact, until Schoop pushed Dyson's leg off of the bag with his glove hand. One out.
On the following pitch, Lorenzo Cain was called out on strikes on a pitch that was several inches inside and off the plate. Two out. Eric Hosmer followed with a single, and Billy Butler was subsequently called out on strikes on a pitch that was essentially in the same place as the pitch to Cain. Three outs, inning over.
Scary moment in the eighth, as Alex Gordon was struck in the shoulder by a pitch that ricocheted up into his neck. He was on first with no outs in the inning, but with Perez and Infante coming up, the chances of scoring the go-ahead run were slim. Sure enough, Perez struck out on three pitches, and LOLmar swung at two pitches that were so incredibly far inside and low that you really have to wonder why Christian Colon can't find the field. Infante didn't actually have a terrible game, as he went 1-for-4 with a walk. But between Perez and Infante, you might be able to cobble together enough bat speed for one actual hitter. He ended up popping out, and then Moustakas was allowed to face a left-handed pitcher with a runner on a late inning situation, and he, too, struck out.
Wade Davis came out for the eighth inning and was remarkably efficient, getting three outs on seven pitches, including a strikeout.
The ninth came along, and Escobar drew a leadoff walk against Baltimore closer Zach Britton. Dyson came out, and as much as he wanted to bunt Escobar to second, Britton decided to give him a free pass as well. Two on, none out. Lorenzo Cain who, prior to his ninth inning at-bat was 2-for-3 with a walk, also tried to sacrifice the runners over, but Britton lost all control of the strike zone, walking Cain and Dyson on eight straight pitches to load the bases for Eric Hosmer.
Not including tonight's game, Eric Hosmer is hitting .500/.632/.1.143 this postseason. His OPS is 1.774. Britton started him off with a sinker for his twelfth straight ball, then Hosmer chased a breaking ball away and out of the zone. Britton then missed on a questionable outside pitch, and after Hosmer fouled off the fifth offering. He took ball three on a pitch that was identical to pitch one for a full count (both were strikes, by PitchTrax). Hosmer then grounded out to first base and Pearce came home to get Escobar. One out.
Billy Butler came up, and Darren O'Day came in. For his career, Butler was 1-for-11 versus O'Day with eight strikeouts, and in a supreme position for a double play ball to escape the inning. Everything about the match-up screamed double play, and sure enough, on pitch number seven, having seen zero pitches inside the strike zone, Butler grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.Opportunity lost.
Wade Davis came back out for the ninth inning and summarily executed his pitches against Alejandro de Aza, striking him out on four pitches. He then had to deal with Adam Jones, and Davis made him look silly on three pitches for another strikeout. Then, Nelson Cruz came to the plate, and Wade Davis didn't care. He set him down on four pitches, ending his second inning of work at just eighteen pitches with four strikeouts.
Lo, Danger Dong. On the second pitch that Darren O'Day threw in the zone all night, Alex Gordon took him twelve rows into right field to give the Royals a 6-5 lead. Salvador Perez followed with a four pitch walk. Brian Matusz relieved O'Day, and Omar Infante proceeded to do his best vaudeville routine impersonating a major league hitter and struck out.
...What the hell is going on around here? Moustakas takes Matusz, a left-handed pitcher, deep to right-center to give the Royals an 8-5 lead. Other hitters came to the plate and produced outs. I think one of them was Dyson? I don't know. I was too busy shouting from the rooftops and muttering 4 Non-Blondes lyrics in between gasping breaths.
Greg Holland came on to pitch the tenth. Pearce promptly popped perfectly on pitch one, Perez peering into the night sky and bringing it in. One out. J.J. Hardy struck out on four pitches. Out two. Flaherty singled on a ground ball to right field, and then former Royal Jimmy Paredes checked into the game to face Greg Holland with two outs. After falling behind 2-0, Holland battled back to a full count, but Paredes worked the walk. Delmon Young then came to the plate to pinch hit for Jonathan Schoop representing the tying run. Holland threw him nothing but sliders out of the zone, until pitch number six came along, a slider that caught a lot of the plate and was grounded into center field for an RBI, putting the winning run at the plate with former Royal David Lough representing the tying run at first.
Nick Markakis stepped in and took strike one from Holland, who seemingly refused to come into the zone against any of Baltimore's hitters, including Jimmy Paredes, who has a career OBP of .279. Thankfully, and perhaps rather mercifully, Markakis grounded out to Omar Infante to end the game, an 8-6 victory for Kansas City in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. I have to type it out that way, because I am still finding it hard to believe. Gordon ended the game 3-for-4 with a double, home run, and a 4 RBI. He is your current front runner for ALCS MVP.
Tomorrow night, Yordano Ventura will throw fire, facing off against an as-yet-undecided starting pitcher. Presumably, it will be Wei-Yin Chen.
UPDATE: Apparently Bud Norris is starting Game 2 for Baltimore. He has a triple slash of 3.65/4.22/3.98 on the year in 165.1 innings.