Royals complete thrilling comeback to defeat A’s in the American League Wild Card Game

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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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.