By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ Will they ever lose again?
Before they get to Surprise, Az. next March?
The Kansas City Royals haven’t lost yet.
KC made it 11 straight post-season, wins dating to Game 3 of the 1985 World Series after edging the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 Wednesday night and now the Royals will host the World Series next week. The Royals swept the Orioles in the best-of-seven, American League Championship Series.
This was a far from lopsided affair.
The regal Royals scored in the 10th to win Game 1, twice in the ninth to win Game 2 and then scored back-to-back 2-1 wins at Kauffman Stadium — without a hit with runners in scoring position (12 at-bats).
If a team goes 0-for-12 during the season in those situations talk is how do they get out of this hitting slump.
Instead, the Royals are getting ready to meet the winner of the St. Louis Cardinals-San Francisco Giants NLCS.
“They made great plays and kept us out of big innings,” said right fielder Nick Markakis, before taking off his Orioles uniform for likely the final time.
“They say pitching and defence wins. That’s what won it for them.”
The O’s have a $17.5 million option for Markakis and won’t pick it up. Some say he’s looking for a four-year, $50 million US deal.
“They deserve to go to the World Series,” said centre fielder Adam Jones. “I’m not saying we don’t deserve it, but they played well.
“All the games were close. We hit a lot of balls really hard, but the game is called baseball … when things are going good, they’re going real good.”
Like the first inning: KC second baseman Omar Infante ranged far to his right and threw across his body and first baseman Eric Hosmer came down on the bag, then Alex Gordon made a fine running catch off Steve Pearce.
In the Royals half they scored twice without getting the ball out of the infield.
“The way things were going for them,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, “we could have been up by four and they would have hit a bases-empty, grand slam. Every doink hit they had, seemed to fall in for them. Every rocket we hit, they made a great play.
“They are on some kind of a streak right now.”
Joseph, who gave a rare accurate assessment from the losing clubhouse (or the excuse room as Scott Young used to call it), was in the midst of the play of the game,
After lead-off man Alcides Escobar reached when his grounder kicked off second and Miguel Gonzalez hit Nori Aoki with a pitch, No. 3 hitter Lorenzo Cain bunted on his own moving the runners over. With the infield in, Hosmer bounced to Pearce at first who threw home, Joseph applied the tag, except the ball came loose with two runners scoring on the play.
“The throw was right there, I made a one-handed sweep tag — because two weeks ago I tried to go with two hands, I was late and the runner was safe,” said Joseph. “But (Escobar’s) leg wound up in my mitt, the ball wound up in their on-deck circle.”
Jason Vargas allowed a solo homer to Ryan Flaherty in the third and the Royals shut down bullpen worked another 3 2/3 scoreless with Greg Holland getting J.J. Hardy to bounce to Mike Moustakas, whose defence was so suspect earlier this season, he sat watching Danny Valencia play third.
Moustakas threw a strike, like the Royals relievers, to Hosmer and 29 years of pent-up, mid-west frustration exploded.
It was pure joy.
As one sign read “we’re going to party like it’s 1985.”
Another read “Meet America’s Team.”
Elevator operators hugged ushers.
Fans cried along with the players celebrating down below and they cheered when George Brett was shown on the sky scraper-like scoreboard in left. An hour after the final pitch KC’s Salvatore Perez, Cain and others celebrated with roughly 10,000 fans near the two dugouts.
The last time the O’s were in KC they split a four-game series, winning 2-1 and 4-0, while losing 1-0 and 8-6.
“They put together more quality at-bats than the last time,” said O’s closer Zach Britton. “They put the ball in play. Their defence was outstanding. We pitched well this series for the most part. They pitched better.”
Buck Showalter, who will likely win his third manager of the year honours, might rank with Gene Mauch when it comes to talented managers who have not reached the Series.
“Whether’s one (run) or 100, it still has the same sting,” said Showalter when asked about the close losses. “Like Detroit felt. Like Oakland felt. There are going to be 29 disappointed teams when this is over.”
Showalter didn’t watch the KC celebrations, he heading to the clubhouse.
“I knew what it was going to be like for them to accomplish for a team, a city a group of fans and an organization’s hopes. It’s such a testament to what a group of young men can do when everyone is pulling on the same rope.
“But my support and my love for these guys is unconditional. They didn’t have to win a World Series for me to feel differently about them.”
Don’t shed tears for the O’s.
They have are the favorites to win the American League East title next year.