The Division Series round of the AL Playoffs is now complete, with both series resulting in sweeps. Now the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles will face each other in perhaps the most unlikely ALCS in recent memory, with neither team having been to the World Series since the mid-1980s. Here’s how they got there:
Kansas City Royals def. Los Angeles Angels, 3 games to 0.
Game 1 in Los Angeles: Royals 3, Angels 2, 11 innings
Game 2 in Los Angeles: Royals 4, Angels 1, 11 innings
Game 3 in Kansas City: Royals 8, Angels 3
The Royals continued their magical run with a sweep of the AL’s top seed, the Angels. But while the sweep makes it sound like the matchup was uneven, the games were extremely competitive (except for Game 3), with each of the first two games going 11 innings. The Royals found a way to win those games, on their way to the series win.
Starting Point: Mike Moustakas’s homer in the 11th inning of Game 1.
After both sides scored single runs in both the 3rd and 5th innings of the series opener, the game went into extra innings. Moustakas hit his first home run since August 25 to put the Royals ahead in the top of the 11th. adding to their extra inning magic from the AL Wild Card Game. When Greg Holland got three outs in the bottom half, the Royals had won Game 1.
Turning Point: Eric Hosmer’s homer in the 11th inning of Game 2.
Game 2 was similar to Game 1, with the game going to extra innings after a Royals run in the 2nd, on an Alex Gordon RBI single, and an Angels run in the 6th, on an Albert Pujols RBI single. The Royals superb play in extra innings continued with an Eric Hosmer 2-run homer that was set up by an infield hit by Lorenzo Cain. Salvador Perez added a run with an RBI infield single, giving the Royals a 4-1 win. If the Angels had won Game 2, the series might have been much different. Instead, the Royals headed home up 2-0 in the series.
Ending Point: Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer’s Game 3 heroics.
With the Angels facing elimination, Mike Trout homered in the top of the 1st to give them a 1-0 lead (his only hit of the series), but Alex Gordon answered in the bottom half with a 3-RBI triple to give the Royals a 3-1 lead, a lead they would never relinquish. A 2-run homer by Hosmer in the 3rd stretched the lead to 5-1, and after that the Angels never got closer than a three run deficit, as the Royals and their fans were able to enjoy the lead as they counted down the outs to the ALCS.
Baltimore Orioles def. Detroit Tigers, 3 games to 0.
Game 1 in Baltimore: Orioles 12, Tigers 3
Game 2 in Baltimore: Orioles 7, Tigers 6
Game 3 in Detroit: Orioles 2, Tigers 1
The Orioles sweeping the Tigers was almost as surprising as the Royals seeping the Angels. While the O’s had a better regular season record, and had home field advantage in the series, the mere thought of the Tigers being swept, particularly considering the Orioles beat three former Cy Young winners to do it (Scherzer, Verlander, Price), was nearly unthinkable a week ago. But due to the struggles of the Tigers bullpen, as well as the clutch hitting of the Orioles lineup, that is exactly how it happened.
Starting Point: The 8-run 8th for the Orioles in Game 1.
After a pretty even back-and-forth game for seven and a half innings, the Orioles took a 4-3 lead to the bottom of the 8th in Game 1, looking for a little insurance for closer Zach Britton. They got plenty, as an 8-run inning against a trio of Tigers relief pitchers, making the lead 12-3. There wasn’t really one big hit in the inning, but instead single RBIs for Nelson Cruz, Ryan Flaherty, and Nick Hundley, two RBIs for Jonathan Schoop and Alejandro De Aza, and a run on an error for De Aza as well. A game that was close for three hours ended up as the biggest blowout, at least by margin, of the playoffs so far.
Turning Point: Delmon Young’s go-ahead double in Game 2
A 3-run homer by JD Martinez, a solo homer by Nick Castellanos, and a pair of RBI hits by Victor Martinez gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead going to the bottom of the 8th in their effort to tie the series at 1-1. Orioles runs had scored on a 2-run homer by Nick Markakis and an RBI single by JJ Hardy, and another scored in the 8th on a Steve Pearce RBI single. After JJ Hardy walked to load the bases, Delmon Young pinch hit, and cleared the bases with a 3-RBI double to give the Orioles a 7-6 lead. The Tigers bullpen had failed them again, and they now headed back home in a 2-0 hole in the series.
Ending Point: Nelson Cruz’s homer in the 6th inning of Game 3.
Game 3 was an excellent pitcher’s duel between David Price of the Tigers and Bud Norris of the Orioles, and it turned in the 6th. After five scoreless innings, Adam Jones singled, and Nelson Cruz homered, giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead with 12 outs to get to advance. The Tigers didn’t even really threaten until the ninth, when an RBI double by JD Martiniez made the score 2-1, and Buck Showalter intentionally walked the potential winning run to set up a double play, which is exactly what pitcher Zach Britton got, clinching the series and ending the Tigers seaaon.