EditorsNote: adds reference to Hammel in eighth graf
Wild wild-card game: Royals shock A’s in 12th
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It took 29 years for the Kansas City Royals to host a postseason game, and for the 40,502 fans in attendance Tuesday night, it was worth the wait.
The Royals rallied after trailing 7-3 in the eighth inning and 8-7 in the 12th, stunning the Oakland Athletics 9-8 in the American League wild-card game.
Kansas City advances to play the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series.
“That’s the most incredible game I’ve ever been part of,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “The fans were unbelievable. Our guys never quit. When we fell behind in the sixth inning, they kept battling back. They weren’t going to be denied.”
Catcher Salvador Perez’s single down the left field line capped the two-run, game-winning rally in the bottom of the 12th after Oakland scored in the top of the inning.
First baseman Eric Hosmer launched a triple off the top of the wall in left-center off Oakland reliever Dan Otero with one out in the bottom of the 12th. Designated hitter Christian Colon then hit a high-chop infield hit to score Hosmer.
“I definitely hit it good,” Hosmer said of his triple. “Nighttime in this ballpark, if you hit a ball and you know it’s gone, you’ve got some serious power.”
Left fielder Alex Gordon popped out to third, but Colon stole second. Jason Hammel entered to pitch for the A’s, and Perez ripped a single past third baseman Josh Donaldson to score Colon with the winning run.
“I was sitting outside,” Perez said. “It was a slider. I took a fastball. I missed an opportunity earlier in the game, so I wanted to help the team. He threw a slider down, and I reached out and got a base hit.”
Oakland manager Bob Melvin, who saw his ace, Jon Lester, enter the eighth with the four-run lead, was shocked.
“I don’t feel very good,” he said when asked about the win-or-go-home approach. “It was a great game. Both teams played well and played hard, but the short answer to your question is not great.
“In Jon’s case, he pitched well for us. He tired a little bit there after the Hosmer walk, but he left with the lead and gave us a chance to win. You don’t expect the score to be (that high) with those two guys pitching (Lester and Royals right-hander James Shields), especially with the bullpens. That’s why you play the game.”
Brandon Finnegan, a September call-up who was the Royals’ first-round draft pick this June, pitched two scoreless innings before walking right fielder Josh Reddick to lead off the top of the 12th. Reddick scored the go-ahead run on a single by Alberto Callaspo off Jason Frasor, but the Royals kept coming back.
“He was phenomenal,” Yost said of Finnegan. “He came in and banged strikes. He got 2 2/3 innings. I was hoping he’d get his first big league win in a game of this caliber.
“We had opportunities two or three times. We just couldn’t get the big hit until Salvy did it in the 12th.”
Frasor picked up the win, while Otero took the loss.
Designated hitter Brandon Moss belted two long home runs, but it was not enough for Oakland. He hit a two-run shot in the top of the first off Shields. After the Royals rallied to take a 3-2 lead heading to the sixth inning, Moss belted his second home run of the game, this time a three-run blast. Oakland scored five times in the sixth to jump in front 7-3.
Lester, who was picked up by the A’s just before the trade deadline, struggled early. Unlike Shields, he got things under control for a while. He retired 12 batters in a row at one point. However, he stumbled in the eighth and ended up allowing six runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Shields lasted just two batters into the sixth inning. He gave up four runs on five hits.
In the eighth, Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar rolled a single past Oakland shortstop Jed Lowrie and stole second. Escobar moved to third on right fielder Nori Aoki’s grounder to second. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain drove home Escobar with a line drive up the middle.
Cain then stole second and Hosmer walked, bringing up designated hitter Billy Butler as the tying run and bringing an end to the night for Lester.
Butler lined a single to right off reliever Luke Gregerson, scoring Cain and driving Hosmer to third. Terrance Gore pinch-ran for Butler and promptly stole second. A wild pitch by Gregerson scored Hosmer to cut Oakland’s lead to 7-6, but the Royals wound up leaving the tying run at third base when Perez and second baseman Omar Infante struck out.
Josh Willingham led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit single off A’s closer Sean Doolittle. Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran. Escobar bunted Dyson to second. Dyson then stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Aoki to tie the score and send the game to extra innings.
The expected pitchers’ duel didn’t materialize.
Shields, who was brought to Kansas City in a trade for the Royals’ top prospect, outfielder Wil Myers, prior to the 2013 season to pitch in big games, allowed five baserunners in the first three innings. Lester, who came into the game with a 2.11 ERA in 13 career postseason starts, struggled early as well. He gave up three runs on five hits in the first three innings.
The A’s struck first in the top of the first. Moss launched an 0-1 pitch 407 feet into the seats behind the A’s bullpen in right field for a 2-0 lead. Center fielder Coco Crisp singled leading off the game and scored on the home run.
Butler answered in the bottom of the first with a two-out RBI single, scoring Aoki and moving Hosmer to third. Butler then wandered too far off base and got caught in a rundown. Hosmer was tagged out at home trying to score.
Kansas City took the lead in the third when center fielder Lorenzo Cain pulled a double down the left field line, scoring third baseman Mike Moustakas, who led off with a single. Hosmer then drove in Cain with a bloop hit to left field.
NOTES: A’s C Geovany Soto was replaced in the bottom of the third inning by C Derek Norris. Soto sustained a left thumb injury on the tag play at home plate in the bottom of the first inning. ... Seven members of the Athletics’ wild-card roster had not played in the postseason prior to Tuesday, including DH Adam Dunn, who didn’t get off the bench in Oakland’s loss. Dunn has played in 2,001 major league games, the most among active players without appearing in the playoffs. ... A’s LHP Eric O’Flaherty, a reliever, was left off the wild-card roster. His surgically repaired left arm was sore the last week of the season. ... Royals OF Terrance Gore made the wild-card roster after being called up Aug. 31. He appeared in 11 games, nine as a pinch runner. ... RHP James Shields is one of five Royals with prior postseason experience (RHP Wade Davis, OF Raul Ibanez, 2B Omar Infante and INF Jayson Nix).