Games taken into the ninth inning and later usually provide a slight edge to the home team, but don’t tell that to the Royals. The Royals have already played four games that have gone extra innings in the post-season and won them all, including last night’s 10-inning 8-6 win in ALCS Game 1. They went into the ninth inning of Saturday’s Game 2 and rallied to push across two runs, winning another game late.
It was a back-and-forth affair through the first five innings, as Orioles starter Bud Norris and Royals starter Yordano Ventura both struggled. Norris was inefficient, throwing 90 pitches before departing with one out in the fifth inning. He allowed at least one run in three of the first four innings, but the bullpen was able to bail him out once he departed. Overall, he yielded four runs on nine hits (including a Mike Moustakas solo home run) while walking none and striking out three. Ventura went 5 2/3, departing in the sixth due to tightness in his right shoulder. He gave up four runs on five hits (including an Adam Jones two-run home run) and three walks while striking out three.
From there, both bullpens squelched the opposing offenses going into the ninth inning. Orioles reliever Darren O’Day took the hill to start the top of the ninth, and quickly allowed a lead-off single to Omar Infante, who was replaced on the base paths by Terrence Gore. O’s manager Buck Showalter brought in closer Zach Britton, one night after he walked three batters in a row to start the ninth inning. While he didn’t have the same control problems, the Royals were still able to rally just the same. Mike Moustakas bunted Gore up to second base, and Gore promptly came around to score when Alcides Escobar pushed a ground ball double down the right field line. Jarrod Dyson then reached on a fielding error by third baseman Ryan Flaherty, allowing Gore to move to third base. Gore scored the Royals’ sixth run when Lorenzo Cain grounded a single to left field.
In the bottom of the ninth, closer Greg Holland slammed the door on the Orioles, getting Alejandro De Aza to pop up weakly to shortstop and Adam Jones to ground out to third base for two quick outs. Nelson Cruz kept hope alive with a ground ball single up the middle, but Steve Pearce struck out swinging to end the contest.
The Royals had several offensive standouts, but Cain shines brightest, finishing 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a pair of runs scored. He’s 6-for-8 in two ALCS games. A night after going 3-for-4 with four RBI, Alex Gordon took a golden sombrero, striking out four times in four at-bats.
Now with six post-season games under their belt, the Royals are still undefeated. They’re the fourth team to start the post-season with six consecutive victories and the first since the 2007 Rockies.
Both clubs will enjoy a day off on Sunday, as they’ll be traveling to Kansas City for Game 3 on Monday. Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen gets the start against Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.