Kansas City's surprising power surge

BALTIMORE -- So what's on tap for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon? Mike Moustakas waving a 12th-inning home run fair while he bounces down the baseline? Alex Gordon circling the bases while Glenn Close applauds in the stands after a game-winning home run into the lights? Or maybe something even crazier -- like Billy Butler sliding home with an inside-the-park home run in the 24th inning?

Hey, don't rule anything out, what with the way the Royals have hit this amazing postseason.

The Royals had a number of things going for them as they entered the postseason. Good starting pitching. Better relief pitching. Outstanding fielding. Great speed. And loud, energized fans who are willing to stand in support -- whether the Royals are four runs behind or five runs ahead, whether it is dry or raining -- because they had waited nearly three decades for this moment.

What the Royals did not have is power or postseason experience. The Royals hit 95 home runs in the regular season, the fewest in the majors. Only once in their final 35 games did they hit as many as two home runs. They also have only three players with prior postseason experience: James Shields, Omar Infante and Wade Davis.

Yet none of that has mattered a bit. These Royals have displayed amazing power and in some of the most demanding, nerve-wracking situations baseball can produce. They have played five games this postseason, and they have won them all. More impressively, they have won four extra-inning games, three of them with home runs. Three! They are the first team in baseball history to do that in a single postseason. Heck, there are teams that haven't done that in their entire postseason history.

It's as if they have Carlton Fisk and Kirk Gibson in their lineup, plus Joe Carter, Kirby Puckett and Roy Hobbs. Not that they seem to need them the way their inexperienced guys are coming through.

Moustakas hit a game-winning home run in the 11th inning in Game 1 of the AL Division Series and followed it up with an important two-run insurance homer in the 10th inning of Friday's 8-6 victory over the Orioles in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. He hit Friday's home run, of course, after Gordon had given the Royals the lead with a leadoff homer earlier that inning. (And long after shortstop Alcides Escobar gave them their first lead with a home run back in the third inning.)

The Royals have hit seven home runs in the past four games after hitting only seven in their final 23 regular-season games. They also have scored eight runs three times this postseason after doing so only twice after the All-Star break.

How? Why? Does stepping to the plate in the 10th inning of a postseason game feel different from an at-bat in, say, the fourth inning of a June game against the Twins?

"It really shouldn't," Moustakas said. "You have to take the same approach and the same mindset and not let those big situations dictate what you're going to do with your at-bat. You still have to get a good pitch to hit, and you still have to square up."

So why are the results so much different in October for the Royals than they were in April through September?

"I think we're just taking the same swings we normally do and the ball is just carrying out for us now," Moustakas said. "Gordo hit that huge homer, and I've been able to hit some, too. We can swing the bats on this side, too. We don't always have to play small ball."

Not at Camden Yards, at least.

"This is a ballpark that's a lot more conducive to hitting home runs than our ballpark is," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You put our club in this ballpark, we would have hit a lot more home runs than we ended up hitting."

Perhaps it's the postseason atmosphere, too, outfielder Lorenzo Cain said. "Maybe guys are just locking in. I'm not sure. They're definitely swinging and stepping up now. I'm fine with it. They can keep swinging, keep hitting home runs, because it's definitely paying off now."

"Sometimes starting new and starting fresh gives you a new perspective," said Raul Ibanez, who knows a thing or two about postseason home runs. "You don't worry about anything, you just go up there and have a quality at-bat. These guys all have power."

So, maybe it's the lack of experience leaving the players feeling loose and relaxed?

"I've always heard the veterans with postseason experience always have the advantage because they know what to expect. That hasn't been the case," Butler said. "I can't put my finger on why. Hey, it's my first experience."

Or maybe it is something in the water in Missouri. Each of the state's two major league teams finished last in its league in home runs, with the pair of teams hitting a combined 200. Yet Kansas City and St. Louis have hit 14 this postseason, seven apiece.

The Orioles outhomered Kansas City and St. Louis combined (211 to 200) in the regular season, and they'll have to regain that edge the rest of the series. Game 2 starter Bud Norris needs to shut down Kansas City and the Orioles' batters need to step it up at the plate because heading to the other team's ballpark with an 0-2 deficit is not a good approach to winning a series.

And Baltimore's bullpen will have to shut down the Royals' hitters in late innings, as well. But make sure your closer throws strikes.

And if he can't, it would be nice if the Royals would hit these home runs in the ninth inning so fans could go to bed a little earlier.

"I don't care when they come," Kansas City outfielder Jarrod Dyson said, "as long as they come."