Royals emerge victorious in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Orioles, 8-6

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It wasn’t pretty — in fact, it was downright ugly at times — but the Royals have taken the first game of the American League Championship Series, defeating the Orioles at Camden Yards on Friday night by an 8-6 margin. The Royals used two 10th-inning home runs from Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas to slide past their foes in their quest to reach the World Series.

The Royals jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the third when Alcides Escobar hit a solo home run and Gordon cleared the bases, dunking a broken-bat double down the right field line. The Orioles responded with a run in the bottom of the third, and the Royals re-padded their lead to four runs with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly by Billy Butler. Orioles starter Chris Tillman was only able to record one out in the fifth inning before departing.

Royals starter James Shields began to falter, however, as the Orioles used a Nelson Cruz RBI double and a two-run Ryan Flaherty single to shave off a significant portion of their deficit. The Orioles tied the game in the sixth on an infield bloop single over the pitcher’s mound by Alejandro De Aza, knotting the game at five apiece.

The Orioles’ bullpen bent but did not break, particularly in the top of the ninth when closer Zach Britton loaded the bases on three consecutive walks. Britton and sidewinder Darren O’Day combined to escape the frame without allowing a runner to touch home. Royals relievers Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, meanwhile, combined for four spotless innings, allowing no hits or walks while striking out six.

O’Day took the mound again to begin the top of the 10th inning to face Alex Gordon, and he now wishes he hadn’t. Gordon greeted him with a well-struck solo home run to right field to break the 5-5 tie. The Royals continued to add on, however. After Salvador Perez, O’Day struck out Omar Infante, but that was the end of his night. Orioles manager Buck Showalter wanted the platoon advantage, so he brought in southpaw Brian Matusz to face Moustakas. Matusz misplaced a fastball, and Moustakas crushed it to right-center for a two-run round-tripper, pushing the Royals’ lead to 8-5.

Closer Greg Holland quickly got two outs in the bottom half of the ninth, but then found himself in some trouble in his attempt to close out the ballgame. The right-hander allowed a single to Flaherty and walked pinch-hitter Jimmy Paredes. Flaherty came around to score when Delmon Young hit a ground ball single up the middle, making it 8-6. The Orioles had the tying run on first base in the legs of pinch-runner David Lough. Holland had the tall task of having to retire Nick Markakis, who already had three hits on the evening. Holland battled and got Markakis to hit a 4-3 ground out to, at long last, end the ballgame.

It was not pristine baseball, but it was entertaining, back-and-forth baseball that made for a thrilling opener to the ALCS. The post-season has already been memorable in so many ways, why should the Championship Series be any different?

The two clubs will match up for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon, as Royals starter Yordano Ventura will face Bud Norris on the Orioles’ side.

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”