“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” was the theme today as Royals outfielder Justin Maxwell hit a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning against the Rangers, clinching the AL West for the Athletics in the process. The Athletics entered the afternoon with a magic number of one, meaning that either a Rangers loss or an Athletics win today would have sealed up the division for the A’s.
The Rangers and Royals entered the bottom of the 10th deadlocked at 0-0 following outstanding pitching performances from starters Alexi Ogando and James Shields. Ogando went seven strong innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out five. Shields went eight, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out two. For the Royals, Greg Holland and Tim Collins each pitched a scoreless inning in support of Shields.
Rangers reliever Neal Cotts started the 10th inning because of the platoon match-up against Eric Hosmer, but Hosmer doubled to left to put the Royals in good starting position to stage a walk-off. Manager Ron Washington walked to the mound and called for Joakim Soria, the former closer for the Royals from 2007-11. Soria intentionally walked Billy Butler to set up the double play, but was then victimized by an infield single by Salvador Perez to load the bases with no outs. The Royals, though, seemed to squander their opportunities with the winning run just 90 feet away. Mike Moustakas popped out, and George Kottaras grounded out, leaving the Royals’ hopes in the inning to Justin Maxwell. Maxwell worked the count to 3-2 against Soria, then turned on a 92 MPH cutter and sent it well beyond the fence in left field for a walk-off grand slam.
With their AL West hopes officially dashed, the 84-71 Rangers now turn their attention to the Wild Card. As the Indians won 9-2 over the Astros this afternoon, the Rangers are now 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card. The Rangers are now 5-15 in the month of September.
Meanwhile, the Royals keep a faint glimmer of hope alive as they are 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card. They have also clinched their first winning season since 2003.