MLB Playoffs: LCS Recap: Royals and Giants Reach World Series

ALCS: Kansas City Royals def. Baltimore Orioles, 4 games to 0
Game 1 in Baltimore:  Royals 8, Orioles 6
Game 2 in Baltimore:  Royals 6, Orioles 4
Game 3 in Kansas City:  Royals 2, Orioles 1
Game 4 in Kansas City:  Royals 2, Orioles 1

The Kansas City Royals swept their way into the World Series, continuing their magical run in their first playoff appearance since their 1985 World Series title.  Kansas City has still not lost a game in these playoffs, matching the 2007 Colorado Rockies as teams who have gone to the World Series unbeaten in October.  Here’s how they did it:

Starting Point:  10th inning homers by Alex Gordon and Mitch Moustakas in Game 1
As the series began in Baltimore, after the Royals had been in extra innings in three of their previous four playoff games, Game 1 went 10 innings as well, although it would be the only extra inning game of the series.  After the Orioles came back from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game at 5-5 in the 6th, Alex Gordon hit a solo homer and Mitch Moustakas followed with a 2-run homer in the top of the 10th, giving the Royals an 8-5 lead, and after three outs, a 1-0 series lead.

Turning Point:  9th inning heroics for Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain in Game 2
While Game 2 didn’t go extra innings, it was settled in favor of the Royals by clutch hitting in the 9th.  In a game that had been tied 4-4 since the 5th, an RBI double by Alcides Escobar in the top of the 9th gave the Royals a 5-4 lead, and a Lorenzo Cain RBI single to score Escobar stretched the lead to 6-4.  Once again, when Greg Holland got three outs for the save, the Royals had secured the win, and they took a 2-0 series lead back to Kansas City.

Ending Point:  A pair of 2-1 Royals wins in front of a loud Kansas City crowd
After Game 3 was delayed a night by rain, it was worth the wait for a crowd which had waited a whole generation for this series.  After a JJ Hardy double gave the O’s an early 1-0 lead, an Alex Gordon RBI groundout in the 4th and a Billy Butler RBI sacrifice fly in the 6th handed a 2-1 lead over to the vaunted Royals bullpen, which they turned into a 3-0 series lead.  In Game 4, as the Royals went for the sweep, they took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st on unearned runs which scored on a fielder’s choice hit into by Eric Hosmer, that turned into two runs on an error.  Ryan Flaherty homered in the 3rd for Baltimore to cut the gap to 2-1, but the Royals pitching, consisting of starter Jason Vargas and their great bullpen, shut down the Orioles the rest of the way, and when Holland got the save in the 9th the Royals were off to the World Series for the first time since 1985.

NLCS: San Francisco Giants def. St. Louis Cardinals, 4 games to 1
Game 1 in St. Louis:  Giants 3, Cardinals, 0
Game 2 in St. Louis:  Cardinals 5, Giants 4
Game 3 in San Francisco:  Giants 5, Cardinals 4
Game 4 in San Francisco:  Giants 6, Cardinals 4
Game 5 in San Francisco:  Giants 6, Cardinals 3

It’s an even-numbered year, which seems to mean the Giants are unstoppable.  After World Series titles in 2010 and 2012, the Giants are back in the Fall Classic again in 2014, after beating the favored Cardinals in a five game series full of heroes on both sides from start to finish:

Starting Point:  Bumgarner and Wong’s heroics in St. Louis
In Game 1, Madison Bumgarner was simply masterful, throwing 7.2 innings of 4-hit, shutout baseball, and while Adam Wainwright didn’t necessarily pitch poorly, three early Giants runs were more than enough to hold up, as they won 3-0 to take a 1-0 series lead.  In Game 2, Oscar Taveras’s solo homer in the 7th tied the game 3-3, and Matt Adams gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead with a solo homer in the 8th, but the Giants tied game in the 9th when Matt Duffy scored from second on a walk/wild pitch by Trevor Rosenthal.  That set the stage for Kolten Wong, who hit a walkoff homer in the 9th to give the Cardinals the 5-4 win and tie the series at 1-1.   Wong’s teammates literally ripped the jersey off his back as they celebrated the win.

Turning Point:  The Choate Choke in Game 3
In Game 3, after the Giants led 4-0 in the first and the Cardinals came back to tie it, including a Randal Grichuk game-tying homer in the 7th, nine innings wasn’t enough, and the game went to extra innings for the only time in the series.  In the bottom of the 10th, with Randy Choate pitching for the Cardinals, the Giants got men at first and second with no outs, and called on Gregor Blanco to bunt.  He bunted it back to the mound, where Choate would throw the ball away trying to get Blanco at first, and Brandon Crawford scored.  While Choate wouldn’t have necessarily gotten out of the inning without the error (it would’ve been 2nd and 3rd, with one out), the play is still the turning point of the series, as a very winnable game in a tied series turned into a 5-4 loss and a 2-1 series deficit for the Cardinals.

Ending Point:  Travis Ishikawa’s Shot Heard ‘Round the Bay
After the Cardinals blew a 4-1 lead in Game 4, as the Giants came back to win 6-4 on the strength of 3 RBI by Buster Posey, Game 5 was the Giants one and only chance to clinch the series at home.  Joe Panik’s homer gave the Giants an early 2-1 lead, but 4th inning solo shots by Matt Adams and Tony Cruz gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, and they were six outs away from sending the series back to Busch Stadium.  Michael Morse then tied the game in the 8th with a pinch-hit solo homer, and after the Cardinals stranded the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, they turned to 2013 NLCS MVP Michael Wacha, a young starter, to pitch out of the bullpen (see my opinion as it happened here).  After a leadoff hit by Pablo Sandoval and a one-out walk, Travis Ishikawa, who was released by the Pirates on April 23, came to the plate, and homered over the high right field wall, matching Bobby Thomson’s 1951 “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” as a Giants’ pennant-winning homer (Joe Buck’s call of the homer on FS1 was an homage to Russ Hodges call in 1951).  The Giants had clinched the series with a 6-3 win, becoming the first team since the 1999-2003 New York Yankees to reach three World Series in five years, and the first NL team to do it since the 1992-96 Atlanta Braves.

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