Royals take a 2-0 lead in the ALCS with a 6-4 victory over the Orioles in Game 2

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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.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.