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Royals beat A’s 9-8 in 12 in AL wild-card thriller

Dave Skretta Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Back in the playoffs after 29 years, the Kansas City Royals ran wild and outlasted Oakland in a thrilling opener to baseball’s postseason.

Salvador Perez singled home the winning run with two outs in the 12th inning, capping two late comebacks that gave Kansas City a 9-8 victory Tuesday night in the A.L. wild-card game.

Quite a start to October baseball – even if this one appeared to be over with plenty of time to spare in September.

“This will go down as the craziest game I’ve ever played,” said Eric Hosmer, who sparked the final rally with a one-out triple. “This team showed a lot of character. No one believed in us before the game. No one believed in us before the season.”

After falling behind by four runs, the Royals raced back with speed on the bases. They finished with seven steals to tie a postseason record previously shared by the 1907 Chicago Cubs and 1975 Cincinnati Reds, according to STATS.

The biggest one came in the 12th.

Hosmer scored the tying run on a high chopper to third by rookie Christian Colon, who reached safely on the infield single and then stole second with two outs.

Perez, who was 0 for 5 after squandering two late chances to drive in key runs, reached out and pulled a one-hopper past diving third baseman Josh Donaldson. Colon scored easily, and the Royals rushed out of the dugout for a mad celebration.

Sitting upstairs in a suite, Royals Hall of Famer George Brett put his hands on his head in near disbelief at the frenzied scene that was unfolding below.

“We wanted to use our legs,” Hosmer said. “We’re an athletic team, and we stuck to that.”

The A’s raced out to a 7-3 lead by the sixth inning, but the Royals countered with three runs in the eighth. Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly off Sean Doolittle in the ninth forced extra innings.

The teams kept trading blows over the next couple innings, as midnight came and went on the East Coast and the tension continued to build. Brandon Finnegan finally cracked after tossing two scoreless innings, but the Royals were there to pick up their pitching one last time.

Eric Hosmer hit a rocket to the wall in left field off Dan Otero for a leadoff triple in the 12th, and Colon hit an infield chopper that he beat out for a tying single. That set the stage for Perez, who lined a pitch from Jason Hammel just inside the third-base line to send the Royals pouring out of their dugout in a mad celebration.

The long-suffering franchise hadn’t played in the postseason since beating St. Louis in the 1985 World Series, and the excitement the permeated the city might best be summed up by a statement posted by the Kansas City Police on Twitter in about the 10th inning: “We really need everyone to not commit crimes and drive safely right now. We’d like to hear the Royals clinch.”

They finally did it in a thrilling start to baseball’s playoffs.

For Oakland, it was one final collapse in a season full of them.

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