The Royals will take on the Angels in the ALDS.
Salvador Perez was held hitless in his first five at-bats of Tuesday’s American League Wild Card Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, but he smacked a walkoff RBI single down the left-field line in the 12th inning to give the Royals a 9-8 victory over the A’s.
Though that doesn’t begin to summarize this one.
Brandon Moss cranked a two-run blast off Royals starter James Shields in the top of the first inning to open the game’s scoring. Kansas City struck back on a Billy Butler RBI single in the bottom of the the first and then grabbed a one-run lead in the bottom of the third inning when Lorenzo Cain roped an RBI double and Eric Hosmer swatted a go-ahead RBI bloop single to shallow left field. The home team led 3-2.
But the Athletics exploded for five runs in the top of the sixth inning on the second homer of the game from Moss — a three-run shot off young flamethrower Yordano Ventura — followed by RBI singles from Derek Norris and Coco Crisp. Ventura was brought into the game to replace Shields after “Big Game James” allowed the first two batters to reach. Ventura threw 73 pitches Sunday in his final regular-season start and looked overmatched in this loser-goes-home thriller. The pitchforks were out for Royals skipper Ned Yost, and the host team looked finished. But this is postseason baseball, so of course the drama didn’t end there.
The Royals used their team speed to kick off a thrilling comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning, plating three runs on three stolen bases, two singles, and a wild pitch from A’s reliever Luke Gregerson. Oakland closer Sean Doolittle gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Josh Willingham in the bottom of the ninth and the Royals brought on the fleet-footed Jarrod Dyson, who made it to second base on a sacrifice bunt, stole third, and then scored on a game-tying sacrifice fly to deep right field by Norichika Aoki. Kauffman Stadium — hosting its first postseason game since the 1985 World Series — was going bonkers. 7-7. Extra innings.
Josh Reddick drew a walk off left-hander Brandon Finnegan — who was pitching in the College World Series just three months ago — to open the top of the 12th. Reddick made it to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Jed Lowrie, and to third on a wild pitch from Royals right-hander Jason Frasor. Alberto Callaspo then drove Reddick in with a slap single to shallow left field, putting the A’s ahead with just three outs to get.
They would not get those three outs.
Hosmer smashed a one-out triple off the top of the left field wall in the bottom of the 12th and raced home on an infield chopper by Christian Colon. Oakland brought in lefty Fernando Abad, who got the left-handed-hitting Alex Gordon to foul out to third base. But Colon stole second off the next pitcher, Jason Hammel, and Perez then played the hero by striking a ball just beyond the grasp of A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson.
What a game. What a sport. What a start to the 2014 postseason.