Tonight's Royals were the Royals to whom we've all become accustomed.
Their runs came by way of sacrifices. Their defense was marvelous. Their bullpen was untouchable.
It may not seem real, but they are now one win away from flying another American League Pennant over Kauffman Stadium, the first since 1985.
For the first five innings of Game Three, Kansas City righty Jeremy Guthrie and Baltimore lefty Wei-Yin Chen alternated half-innings of bottom-line effectiveness while getting into and out of jams, overcoming the shortcomings inherent in their profiles with a combination of wiles, luck, and perhaps a bit of magic. Each starter exited the game with the score knotted at a run apiece, yielding to their bullpen.
Of course, Ned Yost turned the game over to Jason Frasor in the sixth, and But I Don't Know What To Do With Those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs did what But I Don't Know What To Do With Those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs does--getting through his inning without allowing any damage to be done.
When Wei-Yin Chen left the game, he did so with runners on the corners. Highly touted prospect Kevin Gausman came into the game to clean up Chen's mess, but with pinch-runner extraordinaire Jarrod Dyson as the man on third, the margin for error was basically any fly ball that traveled more than about 225 feet in the air. Billy Butler hit the fly ball that was needed of him, and the Royals seized a 2 - 1 lead to head into the seventh.
In such a low-scoring affair and with the starting pitchers belonging to the pitch-to-contact/crafty ilk, the pressure was always on each team's respective defense to come through with a big play. The Royals' infield defense was particularly up to the task, with Omar Infante making a couple difficult plays and Mike Moustakas channeling Brooks Robinson all night long. If there was a star in this game, it was Moustakas. No, he didn't get on base. Hell, he grounded into a double play and struck out looking in addition to grounding out to first in the seventh. Moustakas was the star tonight.
Yes. That happened.
He also fully extended himself on a diving stab to rip a liner out of the air earlier in the game.
After But I Don't Know What To Do With Those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs shut down the Orioles in the sixth, Yost turned the game and the lead over to the positively filthy triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. Herrera and Davis each dominated the opposition in his respective inning of work. Holland did the same.
Though he worked himself in and out of trouble in his five innings of work, Guthrie turned in the best start of any Royals starter this series. He only struck out two, matching his two walks, but his three hits allowed all came in the first three innings, and his one earned run was better than either James Shields or Yordano Ventura allowed in their starts in Games One and Two. After those first three innings, the Orioles did not record another hit.
Offensively, the Royals didn't do a whole lot. The Royals trailed for the first time in this series when the Orioles took the lead in the second after sequencing back-to-back doubles. The Royals tied things up in the fourth when Lorenzo Cain singled with one out, advanced to second on an Eric Hosmer single, moved up to third when Wei-Yin Chen walked Billy Butler, and scored on an Alex Gordon ground out to second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Their second run came as described above, with Dyson scoring after pinch-running for Aoki following a lead-off single in the sixth.
The aforementioned Butler walk was the only one Orioles pitchers issued. Hosmer and Cain each singled twice. Escobar, Aoki, and Omar Infante each threw in a single of their own.
That was it.
It was enough.
If you had a time machine and traveled back to June to tell yourself that the Royals would be playing Game Four of the ALCS at home with a chance to go to the World Series after finishing second in the AL Central to Detroit, beating Jon Lester and the A's in the Wild Card, sweeping the Angels, and that Jeremy Guthrie pitched better than James Shields and Yordano Ventura in the ALCS, you'd punch your future self in the damn mouth before checking yourself into an institution for observation.
With this win, the 2014 Kansas City Royals tied the 2007 Colorado Rockies as the only team in MLB history to start the postseason 7 - 0. They have not lost in the postseason since Game Four of the 1985 World Series, and it's beginning to feel as though that streak-breaking loss may not come this year.
The Royals need one win--one--one win to advance to the World Series.