KANSAS CITY — Emotions swinging from one extreme to the other. Tension building into the night. Each moment more heart-stopping than the last.
Brandon Finnegan has been here before.
The former Southwest High School star who was pitching for TCU in June, was smack in the middle of the Kansas City Royals’ thrilling A.L. Wild Card win against the Oakland A’s on Tuesday night.
In fact, if it wasn’t for Finnegan, who Kansas City drafted as the No. 17 overall pick in the major league draft on June 5, the Royals’ first taste of the postseason in 29 years may have been over before it started.
The last time the Royals were in the postseason (1985) was eight years before Finnegan was born. At 21, he’s the young player in the postseason. His teammate Raul Ibanez (42) is the oldest.
Finnegan, who joined the big league club on Sept. 1 after a quick run through the minors, was up to the task on Tuesday. After the Royals tied it at 7 with a run in the bottom of the ninth, Finnegan pitched the next 2 1/3 innings, including a perfect 10th and 11th with three strikeouts.
In the 12th, he walked the lead-off batter, who eventually scored against former Ranger Jason Frasor to give the A’s an 8-7 lead. The Royals, however, rallied in the bottom of the inning to win 9-8. Kansas City plays the Angels in Los Angeles in the best-of-five ALDS beginning on Thursday.
Finnegan was interviewed by TBS moments after the game about midnight, a mere five hours after the game started.
“Honestly, it took me back to the College World Series,” Finnegan said. “Big stage, big crowd, it’s all I could think of. I’ve been in situations like this before, so I just had to go out and do my job.”
Finnegan helped TCU return to the College World Series just a few months ago. He started the Frogs’ 11-inning Fort Worth Regional win against Siena on May 30 and watched a day later as his team outlasted Sam Houston State 3-2 in a 22-inning marathon that finished at 2:30 a.m. Two weeks later he was on the mound for eight innings in a 15-inning loss to Virginia.
Finnegan had been used sparingly since making his debut at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 4, including striking out Derek Jeter in two perfect innings. Before the Tuesday’s heroics, Finnegan had all of seven big league innings under his belt with an 0-1 record and no saves.
“You don’t want to make judgments too soon and I hate to use cliches, but as we saw tonight and what we’ve seen the last month this kid’s just not afraid,” Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland told MLB.com. “He comes right at you. He trusts himself, he believes in it, and he comes right at you. We can’t say enough good about him.”
“I feel like a proud father,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I know I’m not his dad but everybody at TCU feels that way. I’m so happy for him, especially when you know the kind of work he put in.”
— TCU Baseball (@TCU_Baseball) October 1, 2014