I guess there was a chance the Baltimore Orioles were going to win Game 4. But it sure didn't feel like it before the game and it sure didn't feel like it after the Kansas City Royals scored two runs in the first inning.
It sure didn't feel like it once the game got to the seventh inning with the Royals ahead. Their vaunted bullpen shut the door and the Royals swept the ALCS. The Royals have won eight straight postseason games. They beat the Orioles 8-6 in 10 innings in Game 1, scored two runs in the ninth inning of Game 2 for a 6-4 win and then won 2-1 and 2-1 in Games 3 and 4. They're hot, they're fun to watch and they're going to the World Series. The Royals have given us a great story. Now they just one need one more chapter.
Five moments from the Game 4 win:
1. Royals celebrate their first trip to the World Series since 1985.
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) October 15, 2014
They did it!!! They did it!!! #Royals to the World Series!!!!!
— Kings of Kauffman (@KingsofKauffman) October 15, 2014
"I don't like that word: 'Unbelievable.' Don't use that word. Nothing is unbelievable." -- Buck O'Neil. A toast to the @Royals.
— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) October 15, 2014
Royals to the World Series. Sports beats experts and analysts again. Undefeated. Undisputed.
— SportsPickle (@sportspickle) October 15, 2014
I am seriously feeling emotions that I don't know what to do with.
— Bradford Doolittle (@bbdoolittle) October 15, 2014
— Ryan Landreth (@ryan_landreth) October 16, 2014
For those of us who grew up watching the Royals when they were an American League powerhouse, it's great to see them back in the World Series after all these years. Congrats to the Royals and their fans.
I...I can't even... pic.twitter.com/rz5Bguop07
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) October 15, 2014
#Royals bullpen in serious lock down mode. Wade Davis is a man among boys right now. Completely dominant.
The game isn't over yet. Holland is human and the O's could--- oh who am I kidding?
— Stacey R Ghostsulias (@StaceGots) October 15, 2014
Yes, it was just two weeks ago when everyone was ripping Ned Yost during the wild-card game for not understanding that you have to manage the postseason a little differently than the regular season. Then he was ripped for saying Herrera is his "seventh-inning guy." Well, Yost has adapted. He used Herrera and Davis for two innings apiece in Game 1. He pulled Jeremy Guthrie after five innings in Game 3. He pulled Jason Vargas with one out and a runner on in the sixth of Game 4. In fact, no Royals starter completed six innings in this series. Yost has a great pen and he used it often.
Wednesday, he let Vargas face No. 9 hitter Jonathan Schoop leading off the sixth inning. Even though Vargas walked him, Yost let him face leadoff hitter Nick Markakis to preserve the lefty-lefty matchup. Vargas struck out Markakis and that was the end of his day. Yost couldn't get out to the mound any quicker. With the heart of the Baltimore lineup due up -- all right-handed -- it was easy to go to the pen. Especially when you have a guy who throws 100 mph down there and hasn't allowed a home run all season.
3. Nelson Cruz lines out to end the sixth inning.
The #Royals have gotten some breaks, but if you can't score more than 2-3 runs against Guthrie and Vargas, you're probably going to lose.
— Royals Review (@royalsreview) October 15, 2014
Still, Herrera had to get out of that sixth inning. He got Steve Pearce on a popup to shortstop, but Adam Jones hit a little flare into right field to put runners at the corners. Cruz lined a 1-0, 99 mph heater toward center field -- but right at second baseman Omar Infante.
You just knew at that point it wasn't going to be Baltimore's day.
— MLB (@MLB) October 15, 2014
More on Gordon's catch here, but he had a terrific day in the field with two more nice plays against Pearce, showing why he's going to win his fourth straight Gold Glove. By the way, check out Ben Lindbergh's great look at the Kansas City outfield.
5. Eric Hosmer's first-inning grounder scores two runs.
Following Alcides Escobar's 1st inning single, the Royals now have 15 infield hits this postseason. All other teams have 16 such hits combined.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 15, 2014
The rally started with Alcides Escobar's infield single that hit the second-base bag. Miguel Gonzalez then made his biggest mistake of the game, hitting Norichika Aoki with a first-pitch fastball. Lorenzo Cain then laid down the first sacrifice bunt of his career (Yost said during the in-game interview that Cain bunted on his own). That brought up Hosmer in what certainly had the feeling of a key moment in the game.
He grounded an 0-1 changeup to first base. Pearce made a nice throw home, but Escobar knocked the ball out of Caleb Joseph's glove and Aoki came all the way around from second base as the ball bounced away. In many ways, this play summed up the series -- the little breaks did seem to go the Royals' way, whether it was the infield hits or the bloopers or a bang-bang play at home that could just as easily have produced the second out of the inning. Instead, Escobar was safe and the Royals scored two runs on the play.
The play, however, also emphasized two other aspects of these teams. The Royals put the ball in play. They had the best contact percentage in the majors in the regular season and they've put the ball in play in the postseason. The Orioles' starting rotation also had one of the lowest strikeout rates in the majors (only the Royals were lower among playoff teams). Second and third and one out is that time you really need a strikeout, but it's not a big weapon for Gonzalez or the other Orioles' starters.