1. Mike Moustakas delivers the big home run.
— MLB (@MLB) October 3, 2014
Great to see Moustakas enjoy a moment like that after such a challenging season. Kid went through the wringer. #royals
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) October 3, 2014
The Angels kept leaving runners on base so the game kept going to the 11th inning. Fernando Salas gave up runs in five of his 10 September appearances. That's the reason he was the fourth guy out of Mike Scioscia's bullpen. Scioscia was down to his fourth guy because his top two relievers, Joe Smith and Huston Street, threw one inning apiece but only 12 and 11 pitches, respectively. I'll never understand why managers will pull their best relievers after they've thrown so few pitches, especially with the score tied in the postseason. Don't you want to get the most possible work out of your best guys? Yes, in this day your late-inning relievers rarely return to the mound after sitting for a half-inning, but the playoffs are a different beat.
Anyway, so Salas hadn't been good in the final weeks (similar to how he faded for the Cardinals in 2011, losing his closer's job as St. Louis went on to win the World Series) but Moustakas hadn't homered since Aug. 25. I wrote earlier that the Royals, last in the majors in home runs, will need to hit some home runs, similar to how the Giants, last in the majors in home runs in 2012, hit 14 in 16 games to win the World Series that year. Moustakas hit a 1-1 changeup at the knees a couple of rows into the right-field stands. Royals manager Ned Yost still had his closer available and Greg Holland, who arrived at the ballpark in the sixth inning after flying to California from North Carolina to witness the birth of his son, cruised to a 1-2-3 inning for the save.
Holland was available for the save because Yost decided to use Duffy, in the bullpen for this series (many wanted Duffy to start instead of Jason Vargas), to face the top of the Angels' lineup. Duffy threw his fastball 68 percent of the time in the regular season, the 10th-highest rate among all pitchers with 100 innings pitched. He threw seven fastballs to Kole Calhoun, who singled in the seventh, setting up the young lefty to face the Angels' two best hitters. He threw fastballs to Trout, the third grounded softly to shortstop for a 6-4 force. Pujols popped out on an 0-1 fastball. Howie Kendrick struck out on a curve as Duffy started mixing in his offspeed stuff.
That was some emotional stuff. Eyes wide, legs shaking, Danny Duffy is clearly not as his best. He gutted through heart of order anyway.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) October 3, 2014
3. Wade Davis vs. Trout and Pujols
"“I’m a starter....I don’t see any reason for me to be in the bullpen." -- Wade Davis, 2012
— jasoncollette (@jasoncollette) October 3, 2014
This was postseason baseball at its most intense: Wade Davis, one of the game's most dominant relievers in 2014, facing Trout, Pujols and Kendrick with the go-ahead run on base in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game. Davis throws a 98-mph fastball, a 93-95 mph cutter and a hard curveball. There's a reason batters hit .151 against him with no home runs and he went over 30 appearances in a row without giving up a run. Not bad for a guy who washed out of the Royals' rotation last season.
Trout stepped in with one out after a walk and failed bunt attempt. The pitch sequence: 98-mph fastball swing and miss, 98 swing and miss, curve bounced (wild pitch), 95 cutter up high, 98 up, 94 cutter foul tip, 98 fastball fouled back, 98 up and in. Trout is a dead lowball hitter and Davis wasn't about to cave and give him something below the waist. Good at-bat by Trout and a good approach by Davis to keep the ball elevated. Davis then got away with two middle-of-the-plate fastballs to Pujols, one fouled back and one popped to second. He then struck out Kendrick on three pitches, two cutters and a blow-it-by-him 98-mph fastball. This is what decides postseason games -- the players. We pay too much attention to bunt attempts. This was Kansas City's best against the Angels' best and the K.C. guy won this one.
4. Jason Vargas stays in the game, avoids disaster.
Twitter was going crazy as Vargas stayed in the game in the sixth inning to face Chris Iannetta (who had already homered) and then the top of the Angels' lineup -- remember, over his final four starts, Vargas gave up 18 runs in 18 innings and never got past the sixth. Then there's the whole thing that pitchers, on average, do worse the third time through the order. Then there's the thing that the Angels' two and three hitters are right-handed power hitters -- Trout and Pujols -- and Vargas gives up home runs to right-handed hitters.
Vargas did do a nice job of getting Trout to fly out with Calhoun on first and one out. After a curveball for a ball, he came inside with three straight fastballs -- Vargas' usual mode against righties is to pound the outside corner. So nice job there. Still, it was living on the edge when he walked Pujols and was allowed to face Kendrick. Then this happened:
Vargas was assisted tonight with catches like this: pic.twitter.com/nuqDUOYrJL
@jazayerli Yes, on a ball that *Cain* missed. Was going to ask you for six random numbers, but just missed the lotto draw. nm.
— Marc W. (@USSM_Marc) October 3, 2014
5. Royals get a run on a double, fly ball out and sacrifice fly.
A ball that doesn't get past the outfielders + two outs = run. This team is steamrolling over every law of sabermetrics. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 3, 2014
Looking at Trout's stats AND the way he carries himself, I don't believe he'll be a center fielder in five years. #ALDS
— robneyer (@robneyer) October 3, 2014
So many PRODUCTIVE OUTS #Royals
— Craig Brown (@royalsauthority) October 3, 2014
A few notes on the Kansas City run in the fifth:
A. I don't think Trout would have caught Alex Gordon's fly ball into left-center, but he also clearly lost it in the lights and had to back off slightly, which may have allowed Gordon to stretch the hit into a double.
B. Trout's defensive metrics weren't good this year -- minus-9 Defensive Runs Saved, a number backed up by watching him, as he got some bad reads and he has a weak arm. It's possible another center field, say, Lorenzo Cain, who had 14 Defensive Runs Saved in about two-thirds the playing as a full-time center fielder, runs that ball down.
C. You might have expected Yost to bunt with Salvador Perez up and nobody out, but he's one of the guys Yost never bunts with (he never has had a sacrifice bunt in his career). He took Josh Hamilton to the wall in left and Gordon smartly tagged up and advanced to third.
D. Omar Infante then hit the sacrifice fly. The Royals tied for the major league lead (with the Rockies) in scoring the runner from third with less than two outs 57 percent of the time. This is one advantage of having a team that puts the ball in play, which the Royals do better than any team in baseball, with the lowest strikeout rate during the regular season.