KANSAS CITY Missouri (Reuters) - The Kansas City Royals are World Series-bound for the first time since their championship season in 1985 after becoming the first MLB team to open a postseason with an 8-0 record on Wednesday.
The Royals extended their perfect postseason run with a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Game Four of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
“It’s been an amazing run,” left fielder Alex Gordon said on the field moments after closer Greg Holland got J.J. Hardy to ground out to third base for the final out.
“Today (was the) same old story, good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win. Good teams find ways to win and that’s what we did.”
Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain was named the Most Valuable Player of the ALCS after batting .533 and playing some stunning defense.
Kansas City will next play the winner of the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.
Two first-inning runs was all Kansas City needed as starting pitcher Jason Vargas struck out six Orioles batters and allowed one run on two hits in 5-1/3 innings before handing it over to the Royals’ vaunted bullpen.
“We know once we have the lead we’ve got the best pitching staff and best bullpen around,” said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, quickly reminding everyone that the season was not over. “We’re not done yet.”
Before the 2014 Major League Baseball season, Kansas City had not returned to the playoffs since winning the World Series 29 years ago, the longest streak without appearing in the postseason in the four major North American sports.
And they did not even win their division this season, being forced to run the gauntlet of a one-off wild-card elimination game against the Oakland Athletics to reach the American League Division Series.
After erasing a four-run deficit en route to sealing a thrilling win over Oakland in extra innings, the Royals swept the top-seeded Los Angeles Angels in a best-of-five series before knocking off the American League East champion Orioles.
Not that the Orioles went quietly. All four games were decided by two runs or less, as the Royals won by a total of only six runs.
“You saw how close the games were. It’s more a testament to what they did. They played great defensively and I congratulate them,” said Baltimore manager Buck Schowalter. “There are going to be 29 disappointed teams when the season’s over.”
Kansas City’s runs in the first came on a fielder’s choice by Eric Hosmer. Alcides Escobar slid home and forced an error on catcher Caleb Joseph. Nori Aoki also scored on the play, while Hosmer reached second.
Baltimore’s only run came in the third inning when Ryan Flaherty homered to right.
Vargas got the win, while Miguel Gonzales took the loss, despite only giving up four hits and two runs in 5-2/3 innings.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue