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Royals loving the late-inning drama

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Kansas City Royals have an optional workout late Saturday afternoon, but rather than taking batting practice or infield practice at Kaufmann Stadium, they might be better off visiting a manicurist somewhere in the Kansas City area. After this amazing week of baseball, their fingernails are going to need some serious work.

"We definitely sit there and start biting them when you get into these games, but you've just got to get through it and grind through them," Kansas City reliever Brandon Finnegan said. "And in these last three games, we've shown a lot of grind."

Boy, have they ever. After going nearly three decades without a postseason appearance, Kansas City is making up for lost time by layering on inning after inning of tense, cuticle-devouring drama this October. First, the Royals rallied time and again to beat Oakland in Tuesday's 12-inning American League wild-card game. Then they beat the Los Angeles Angels on Mike Moustakas' 11th-inning homer run in Thursday's division series opener. And then they extended the theatrics Friday night when Eric Hosmer slammed a two-run homer in the 11th inning in Kansas City's 4-1 victory over Anaheim in Game 2 to give the Royals a commanding 2-0 series lead as they head home.

"We're tough to put away," said Hosmer, who was 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs in Game 2. "I know we're going to be battling until the last out, but it's fun. It's fun to be the underdog. It's fun to realize and go out there and play and know you don't have anything to lose and just put it all on the line."

The Royals are the first team to ever win three consecutive extra-innings postseason games and the first to even play three in a row since the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies played four in a row in the 1980 NLCS. They are the first team to ever win consecutive extra-innings postseason games on home runs.

They might have kept their fans waiting 29 years between postseason appearances, but the Royals are almost making that wait worthwhile.

"Man. I tell you what, I'm just happy they're having fun, right along with us," outfielder Jarrod Dyson said. "We're here and they're in Kansas City, and we can't wait to get back to our home crowd. We knew we had to come over here and take care of business, and that's what we did. Now we have to go home and finish them up."

Hosmer's home run off reliever Kevin Jepsen will be long remembered, but the game might have turned in the bottom of the eighth inning when Dyson gunned down the Angels' Collin Cowgill at third base to complete a double play with the game tied at 1-1. Had Dyson not made that throw -- or had Moustakas not made a great tag to just nip Cowgill -- the Angels would have had a runner on third base and a great opportunity to take the lead.

Then again, perhaps the Royals' bullpen would have just stranded Cowgill at third base anyway. After throwing five scoreless innings Thursday, they threw another four scoreless innings in relief of starter Yordano Ventura (who rebounded from his poor -- and questionable -- relief appearance Tuesday with an outstanding performance Friday). The Royals' bullpen has allowed only three hits in the ALDS, while the entire staff is manhandling the heart of an Angels lineup that scored more runs and won more games than any team in baseball this season.

Probable AL MVP Trout is hitless in eight at-bats this series, while Albert Pujols is 1-for-8 and Howie Kendrick is 1-for-9 with four strikeouts. Josh Hamilton is 0-for-9 with two strikeouts and is struggling so much that Angels fans roundly booed him Friday.

There will be no boos for the Royals when they take the field at home Sunday. Despite not clinching their long-desired playoff spot until the final weekend of the regular season and coming into this series as underdogs, they are playing so well they probably won't need any Don Denkinger-like umpiring assists to keep winning.

"We can hit home runs, [but] we don't live and die by them," manager New Yost said. "We have other things that we can use to help us win ballgames. We're aggressive on the bases. We've got great defense. We've got great pitching, starting and bullpen. We've got guys that can hit home runs."

Well, perhaps, but the Royals hit the fewest home runs in baseball this year, just 95 all season. But maybe they just needed to play more 11-inning games. It certainly has worked for Moustakas and Hosmer.

Only five previous teams won three postseason games in extra innings, and all five went on to win the World Series. But that's getting a little far ahead. The Royals still must finish off a tough Angels team, though they do have ace James Shields scheduled to start Sunday's game.

"We're loose, man. We're loose. We just have fun. We're high-fiving and jumping up and down," Dyson said. "But when we cross that white line, we're focused."

How will this series turn out? We'll see. But based on the games so far, Kansas City might want to keep the nail files close to the champagne bottles.