KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - The wild card Kansas City Royals completed a stunning playoff sweep of the top-seeded Los Angeles Angels on Sunday with an 8-3 win that set up an American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
The high-spirited Royals, in the postseason for the first time in 29 years, claimed the best-of-five Division Series 3-0.
Baltimore also wrapped up their series without a blemish as they beat the Tigers 2-1 in Detroit on Sunday.
Kansas City, the only Major League Baseball team with less than 100 home runs this season, got roundtrippers from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and a three-run double by Alex Gordon that had them rolling in the first inning.
“We’ve been working all year for this,” Gordan said in an interview on the field after fireworks lit the sky following the final out.
“It’s the best we’ve played all year and the best time to do it.”
Gordon’s bases-loaded opposite field shot to the wall in left-center answered a first-inning home run by Mike Trout and chased Angels starting pitcher C.J. Wilson after just two-thirds of an inning.
Kansas City extended their lead to 5-1 in the third inning on a two-run homer from Hosmer, and after Albert Pujols blasted a solo homer in the fourth the Royals answered again in their half with two runs including a blast over the wall by Moustakas.
Royals starter James Shields went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits and was followed by the usual bullpen progression of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland, who struck out AL MVP favorite Trout to end the game.
Los Angeles used eight pitchers and their hitters went 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position.
”We had a great season and had a rough three games,“ said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. ”Anything happens in the playoffs.
“You don’t go in with any badge saying you won the most games. Those guys got some big hits and beat us.”
Besides the pitching and timely hitting, the Royals also stood out defensively, underlined by back-to-back outstanding catches by center fielder Lorenzo Cain with two men on in the fifth.
“Both of those were phenomenal plays. The first one he came out of nowhere like Superman and caught it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said about Cain’s full length dive to rob Pujols.
“The next play was easier but it was still every bit as pretty,” he added about Cain’s sliding catch of a liner hit by Howie Kendrick.
Lamented Los Angeles skipper Scioscia: “I think it’s a whole new ball game if Cain doesn’t make those catches.”
The Angels, who won 98 games this season, became the first team to be swept in the Division Series after posting the best record in the majors since that level of playoffs was introduced in 1995.
Game One of the best-of-seven league championship will be on Friday in Baltimore with the series winner going on to the World Series.
Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Ian Ransom