The postseason in baseball is often about momentum, and the Kansas City Royals carried it into game 1 of their ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels, beating the team with the best record in the majors 3-2 thanks to an 11th inning home run from Mike Moustakas, some excellent glove handling from Norichika Aoki and an excellent performance from Jason Vargas and the bullpen, taking a 1-0 lead.
For the Angels, a 98-win team this season, the big bats didn’t connect, and that was that. It’s either win big or not at all for them. Jered Weaver had a very good start with six strikeouts in seven innings, giving up two runs, and the bullpen that came on after him did a very good job, until it got to Fernando Salas in the 11th. He blew it by giving up the home run to Moustakas, as Greg Holland came on to close the game for the Royals, getting two strikeouts in an excellent final inning for him.
The Royals stole home field advantage despite going 4-for-34 all night long. The Angels also had just four hits, as Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Howie Kendrick finished with a combined 0-for-18. Kole Calhoun did a good job leading off with a couple of hits, but the big bats that came on after him kept missing the opportunities given to them, as the Angels finished with a very poor o-for-7 with runners in scoring positions.
We still had runs in this game. The Royals took the lead in the third inning with a single from Alcides Escobar, turned into an RBI by Moustakas. Chris Iannetta returned the favor with a home run in the bottom of the third. The Royals took the lead again in the fifth inning thanks to Omar Infante hitting a sacrifice fly, but another home run, this time from David Freese, happening in the bottom of the fifth, tied the game at 2.
From here it was a bullpen battle, as Aoki made two very big saves near the wall, one of them a case of pure luck as he and Lorenzo Cain nearly collided and the other a demonstration of the ability to change direction and read the route of a big hit. He wasn’t playing at home, but he still got quite the reaction from the crowd, tipping his hat. For some people, hate between rivals is an inseparable part of sports. Others like to see fans appreciate great baseball, even if it happened against their own team.
Yorando Ventura is on for game 2 and so is Matt Shoemaker. On the surface, this should give the Angles a big advantage. Venture doesn’t have a lot of control, which can mean trouble with a fastball that can go past 100 miles per hour. He also struggled in the wild card game when coming on. Yet the Royals have now won two consecutive games very late with a big hit, and in the playoffs that often generates an incredible push, often defying logic. The Angels are a more talented baseball team, but need to get their act together, because just occasional home runs won’t be enough.