American League Wild Card Games

Coverage and Analysis by Ben Sherbacow, Contributing Writer

AL Wild Card 9/30

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OAK

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KC

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WP: Frasor

LP: Otero

Top 1st: Oakland

Brandon Moss homered (407 ft.) to deep right, Coco Crisp scored

OAK 2 – KC 0

Bottom 1st: Kansas City

Billy Butler singled to left, Nori Aoki scored, Eric Hosmer to third

OAK 2 – KC 1

Bottom 3rd: Kansas City

Lorenzo Cain doubled to left, Mike Moustakas scored

OAK 2 – KC 2

Eric Hosmer singled to left, Lorenzo Cain scored

OAK 2 – KC 3

Top 6th: Oakland

Brandon Moss homered (418 ft.) to deep center, Sam Fuld and Josh Donaldson scored

OAK 5 – KC 3

Derek Norris singled to center, Josh Reddick scored

OAK 6 – KC 3

Coco Crisp singled to right center, Derek Norris scored, Eric Sogard to second

OAK 7 – KC 3

Bottom 8th: Kansas City

Lorenzo Cain singled to center, Alcides Escobar scored

OAK 7 – KC 4

Billy Butler singled to right center, Lorenzo Cain scored, Eric Hosmer to third

OAK 7 – KC 5

Eric Hosmer scored, Terrance Gore to third on wild pitch

OAK 7 – KC 6

Bottom 9th: Kansas City

Nori Aoki hit sacrifice fly to right, Jarrod Dyson scored

OAK 7 – KC 7

Top 12th: Oakland

Alberto Callaspo singled to left, Josh Reddick scored

OAK 8 – KC 7

Bottom 12th: Kansas City

Christian Colón reached on an infield single, Eric Hosmer scored

OAK 8 – KC 8

Salvador Pérez singled to left, Christian Colón scored

OAK 8 – KC 9

It’s official: the Kansas City Royals have made the playoffs for the first time in nearly three decades.

Despite a lineup that doesn’t sport big names or playoff experience, they managed to overcome a reeling and struggling Oakland team, who has not been able to hit since trading slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in July for ace Jon Lester. It was a pitching matchup to turn heads; Jon Lester, fresh off of a World Series win with a Boston team who has been abysmal all year, traded to Oakland in July with hopes of beefing up their rotation for what then seemed like an inevitable October trip, showing his stuff against James Shields, the lone ace atop a relatively unknown Kansas City rotation. It was a matchup of two vastly different small-market teams. Moneyball versus smallball. Speed versus power.

Oakland was quick to show off the power that they had been hiding for the entire second half, with Brandon Moss ripping a two-run shot into the right field stands in the top of the first inning. Kansas City answered back in the bottom half, with a Billy Butler single that scored Nori Aoki. Then, after a scoreless second inning, Lorenzo Cain, the dynamic centerfielder for Kansas, ripped an RBI double, scoring Mike Moustakas and evening the score 2-2. Then, Eric Hosmer singled in Lorenzo Cain, putting Kansas up 3-2 in the third inning. The bats were silent again for another few innings until the top of the sixth, when it looked like it could all come apart for Kansas. Manager Ned Yost made the nearly-fatal error of putting starter Yordano Ventura in for relief, and his lack of experience in that position showed immediately, as he fed Brandon Moss a 98 mph fastball to the knees. Moss turned it into a towering three-run home run, his second of the game, putting Oakland on top 5-3. After a pair of singles by Derek Norris and Coco Crisp, the score was 7-3 Oakland at the end of six frames.

And yet Kansas was not done yet. A’s manager Bob Melvin felt confident in putting Lester back out in the eighth inning, due to his reputation of going long into games and continuing his dominance late in the game. This, however, was not the case. He quickly gave up two RBI singles to Lorenzo Cain and Billy Butler, and after a wild pitch in which Eric Hosmer scored, Kansas City had narrowed the deficit to just one run going into the ninth inning. Oakland turned to its lights-out closer, Sean Doolittle, to end Kansas’s playoff hopes and advance to the ALDS. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, he gave up a leadoff single to pinch hitter Josh Willingham, who was replaced by runner Jarrod Dyson. At this point, Dyson showed why speed and base-running has been such a big factor in Kansas City; he took second on a sac fly by Escobar, and subsequently stole third. With two outs and the tying run 90 feet away, Nori Aoki hit a single to right field, scoring Dyson and setting the score at 7-7.

The game would go on into extra innings, scoreless until the top of the twelfth inning, when Alberto Callaspo hit an RBI single, scoring Josh Reddick. Kansas would have to score in the bottom of the twelfth, or else they would go home to extend their playoff drought by another year. And yet again, Kansas City came through in a big way. With one out, Eric Hosmer tripled to left field, and was scored in by a Christian Colón single. Then, with two outs left, Colon stole second, and, as if sensing the momentum, Salvador Pérez hit a ball down the third base line, just out of the reach of a diving Josh Donaldson, scoring Colon and walking off with the ballgame.

And just like that, the drought is over. Kansas City is heading to the playoffs. They are scheduled to face the number one-seeded Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

NL Wild Card Game 10/1

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SF

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WP: Bumgarner

LP: Vólquez

Top 4th: San Francisco

Brandon Crawford homered (355 ft.) to deep right, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt scored

SF 4 – PIT 0

Top 6th: San Francisco

Brandon Belt singled to shallow right, Hunter Pence scored

SF 5 – PIT 0

Top 7th: San Francisco

Brandon Belt singled to right center, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval scored, Hunter Pence to second

SF 7 – PIT 0

Top 8th: San Francisco

Buster Posey singled to center, Gregor Blanco scored, Joe Panik to second

SF 8 – PIT 0

The bats were quiet in Pittsburgh tonight as the Giants routed the Pirates 8-0. Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete game shutout, silencing bats for nine innings, and Brandon Crawford hit a grandslam in the fourth inning to ensure an easy win for Bumgarner.

There was much speculation surrounding this one-game, winner-take-all matchup. Why were the Bucs not relying on Gerrit Cole, the young starter who had posted a 3.65 ERA throughout the regular season? Would Edinson Volquez then, who had gone 18 previous innings scoreless, be enough to defeat Bumgarner, who, at 25, is already a veteran with playoff experience, now owning a 4-2 playoff record with three shutouts and a 3.02 ERA in every postseason he has played in.

In the end, it turns out, it wasn’t. While Volquez had flashes of brilliance and looked good for the first three innings, he gave up a towering grand slam to Brandon Crawford in the fourth inning. It silenced the PNC park crowd, and sent the Pirates reeling into a tailspin. Their bats went cold, the crowd was quiet, and the Giants had put up four more runs by the end of the game to make it an 8-0 blowout.

Brandon Belt had two RBI singles, totaling 3 RBI in three at-bats. Buster Posey tacked on another run with an RBI single to center in the 8th inning. But at that point, the game was already well past won, and the Pirates, a team that had looked so promising throughout the regular season, were left without a paddle and just hoping to retreat into the dugout and prepare for next year.

Of the 109 pitches Bumgarner threw, 79 were strikes. Pittsburgh, which ranked fourth in the league in runs, moved only three runners into scoring position against Bumgarner. That’s just absolutely dominant pitching. The 25-year-old is coming off a solid regular season in which he went 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA. He lost his only start against Pittsburgh, giving up five runs in four innings on July 28 at AT&T Park. Ironically, the Pirates couldn’t touch him in the one game that mattered.

The Giants look to face the Washington Nationals in the National League Divisional Series.

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Ben Sherbacow is a sophomore at Gettysburg College. He is from Avon, Connecticut, and aspires to be a sports writer for the Boston Red Sox someday. He covers baseball and baseball-related topics.

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