KC Royals: Ten Most Dominant Starts In Royals Playoff History

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May 26, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) chases a double hit by New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (not pictured) during the fifth inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

9. 1978 American League Championship Series, Game 4

Dennis Leonard: 8.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K

Game Score: 73

Game Result: Yankees 2, Royals 1

The late seventies KC Royals won three straight Western Division titles from 1976-78, only to run into the big market New York Yankees all three times. The Kansas City Royals had lost their first two trips to the American League Championship Series after pushing the Yankees to a deciding Game 5 both times in both 1976 and 1977.

[Note: the ALCS did not expand to seven games until 1985]

In 1978, the KC Royals were trying to change their fortunes, but were trailing two games to one heading into Game 4 in New York. Dennis Leonard was then a 27-year-old pitcher who had seized the staff “ace” role in his fourth full big league season. Leonard had posted his second straight 20-win season in 1978, going 21-17, with a 3.33 ERA, and a 5.6 K/9. Leonard finished seventh in the A.L. Cy Young race that season.

Dennis Leonard pitched a whale of a game that night.

George Brett led off the game with a triple, followed by a single from Hal McRae to give Leonard a quick 1-0 lead. But, alas that was all the runs the KC offense would give Leonard.

Dennis Leonard gave up the lead by allowing third baseman Graig Nettles to hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the second. The game continued to remain tied as Leonard traded zeros with Yankee ace Ron Guidry, until left fielder Roy White broke the tie by slamming a solo home run with one out in the sixth.

As good as the late-70’s Kansas City Royals teams were, they lacked the comeback magic that made the 2015 World Series champions famous. Though center-fielder Amos Otis led off the ninth inning with a double off Ron Guidry (25-3, 1.74 ERA while winning the 1978 Cy Young), Hall-of-Fame closer Rich Gossage entered to slam the door. Gossage recorded a strikeout and two fly balls to finish off the Yankees’ third straight American League pennant.

Kansas City wept.

Next: 1984 American League Championship Series, Game 3