Royals sweep Angels, punch their ticket to the ALCS

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The Royals rode a strong outing from “Big Game” James Shields and a relentless offense to take an easy 8-3 win over the Angels in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday, completing a series sweep and punching their ticket into the ALCS against the Orioles.

Shields fell behind early, surrendering a first-inning solo home run to Mike Trout in the top of the first. But the Royals countered, scoring three on Alex Gordon’s bases-clearing double to left-center in the bottom half. From there, the Royals would never relinquish their lead.

The Royals kept adding on, scoring twice in the third inning on Eric Hosmer’s two run home run, and twice in the fourth on a Mike Moustakas solo homer and a Lorenzo Cain sacrifice fly. Norichika Aoki made it 8-2 in the sixth with an RBI single.

Shields gave up another solo home run, this time to Albert Pujols, in the fourth, but that was it. Overall, he gave up six hits and two walks while striking out six. Cain helped Shields out twice with two spectacular catches in the top of the fifth inning that prevented the Angels from reducing their deficit.

Shields’ counterpart, C.J. Wilson, failed to make it out of the first inning, as Mike Scioscia chose to yank him with two outs in the bottom of the first. The Angels got the remaining 22 outs with seven relievers.

Once Shields departed, Kelvim Herrera tossed a scoreless seventh, Wade Davis allowed a meaningless run in the eighth, and Greg Holland nailed down the win in the top of the ninth, striking out pinch-hitter Hank Conger, inducing a ground ball that Omar Infante fielded with a bare hand, and fanning Trout for the final out.

Both the Royals and Orioles, having completed sweeps, now have a lot of downtime. The two clubs won’t match up for Game 1 of the ALCS until Friday night.

The Angels, meanwhile, will lick their wounds as they attempt to answer how they won the most games of any team in the majors during the regular season, but their $154 million roster showed up flat in the playoffs against a team that won nine fewer games and didn’t even win their division.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.