Video: Rookies Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier go back-to-back in walk-off win

Hunter Dozier
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The Royals engineered a stunning comeback on Friday night after rallying from a one-run deficit with a pair of back-to-back home runs from rookie infielders Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier. In the ninth, down by one with no outs, O’Hearn smacked a first-pitch fastball from the Indians’ Cody Allen, sending it into the left field bullpen to tie the game, 4-4. Dozier drew a 1-1 count in the next at-bat, then postmarked another solo 397-footer to right field for the walk-off.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time in MLB history that any two rookies have wrapped up a win after going back-to-back in the ninth inning (or extras), and was undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights for both rookies this year. O’Hearn, 25, was brought up to the big leagues at the trade deadline and is currently batting an underwhelming .212/.281/.519 with five home runs in 57 plate appearances, while the 27-year-old Dozier has slashed .217/.275/.349 with seven homers across 269 PA. This is Dozier’s first season in the majors since 2016; the rookie third baseman missed the entire 2017 season after fracturing the hamate bone in his left wrist.

The win couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time for the Royals, who snapped a five-game losing streak and have gone just 6-17 in August so far. They officially crested 90 losses with a when the Rays rounded out their four-game sweep on Thursday, but moments like these provide some much-needed relief as they continue to advance their full-scale rebuild this fall.

“Both of these kids, they’ve got a long way to grow, but they’ve got a nice ceiling,” manager Ned Yost told reporters after the game. “That’s what they do so well: they work so hard, they’re learning, they want to learn, they’re seeking information, and they’re getting their feet wet up here, which is fun to see.” Of course, the timeliness of the home runs worked in his favor, too; as he confided the press, he had all but run out of pitching options after deploying Brad Keller, Brian Flynn, Kevin McCarthy, Brandon Maurer and Wily Peralta and may have ended up conceding the win had he been required to stretch his bullpen beyond the ninth inning.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.