Oct 11, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; General view of the cap and glove of Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) before game three of the ALDS against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
8. 1984 American League Championship Series, Game 3
Charlie Leibrandt: 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K
Game Score: 74
Game Result: Tigers 1, Royals 0
The 1984 Kansas City Royals were a team in transition. Only a few aging pieces remained from the core group that won four AL West titles between 1976 and 1980. The team suffered a cocaine use scandal that caused the front office to ship out starter Vida Blue and first baseman Willie Mays Aikens, and chastened 1982 batting crown winner Willie Wilson.
Former rotation stalwarts like Dennis Leonard, Larry Gura, and Paul Splittorff had become little more than afterthoughts behind a new wave of kid pitchers in 20-year-old Bret Saberhagen, 21-year-old Mark Gubicza, and 22-year-old Danny Jackson.
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Despite the turnover, the KC Royals won the weak AL West with an 84-78 record. However, that meant they had to face the 104 win Detroit Tigers, who had set a major-league record with an absurd 35-5 start to the 1984 season.
However, the KC Royals still had franchise player George Brett, and stalwarts like Hal McRae, Frank White, and Willie Wilson. The bullpen was still ruled by “one man bullpen” Dan Quisenberry. And Dick Howser was the manager.
The Tigers blasted the Royals 8-1 in Game 1, beating staff ace (and future Padres and Angels manager) Bud Black. They beat Bret Saberhagen 5-3 in Game 2. Reclamation project Charlie Leibrandt, who the KC Royals acquired in a 1983 trade with the Reds for prospect Bob Tufts, was the only thing standing in the way of a Detroit sweep.
Leibrandt gave it a good run, allowing only three hits, four walks, and one earned run while lasting eight innings. The only blot on the day came when the Tigers scratched out a single run in the second inning on two singles and a ground out.
But, it wasn’t good enough. Detroit’s Milt Wilcox was even better, shutting out the Kansas City Royals offense over nine full innings while allowing only three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
While a disappointment, the 1984 playoff failure became a precursor to the best starting pitching staff in KC Royals history: the 1985 World Series champions.
Next: 1985 World Series, Game 5