KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Almost an hour had passed, and the postgame party had moved from the field to the Kansas City clubhouse, where victory champagne was once again flowing. Yet as sheets of rain fell at Kauffman Stadium, thousands of celebrating Royals fans refused to leave.
They had waited 29 years to soak in moments like these.
“This is a special time in the city right now and they’re enjoying this as much as we are,” winning pitcher James Shields said. “This is the best atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of.”
Alex Gordon hit a bases-clearing double in the first inning, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas each homered and the wild-card Royals finished off a three-game sweep of the mighty Los Angeles Angels with an emphatic 8-3 victory Sunday night in the A.L. Division Series.
The scrappy team with the unorthodox manager, popgun offense, dynamic defense and lights-out bullpen will open the A.L. Championship Series against the Orioles beginning Friday night in Baltimore. Kansas City went 4-3 against the O’s this year.
“I’ve never seen this group of kids so confident on the big stage,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s really fun to see their development and watch them come into the postseason and just really take their game to the next level.”
The power-hitting Angels, 98-64 in the regular season, became the second team in the divisional era that began in 1969 to have the best record in the majors and get swept out of the playoffs, STATS said. The Royals dealt the same fate to the New York Yankees in the 1980 ALCS.
Shields lived up to his “Big Game James” billing. The Royals’ ace gave up homers to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but otherwise held in check a suddenly punchless Los Angeles lineup. All told, the highest-scoring team in baseball managed six runs in the entire series.
“Anything happens in the playoffs,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “You don’t go in with any badge saying you won the most games, and you’re certainly not going to get any points for that going into the playoffs.”
The Royals coasted to their seventh straight postseason victory dating to Game 5 of the 1985 World Series, the last time they were in the playoffs.
“We feel like we belong,” outfielder Lorenzo Cain said, “that we can play with anyone.”
Trout staked his team to a first-inning lead, but Angels starter C.J. Wilson quickly got into trouble. The left-hander gave up consecutive singles and a four-pitch walk in the bottom half to load the bases for Gordon, whose slicing two-out double gave Kansas City a 3-1 lead.
Sensing the game already slipping away, Scioscia immediately marched to the mound and turned the game over to his bullpen. It didn’t fare a whole lot better.
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