After a heartbreaking defeat on Thursday, the Kansas City Royals bounced back to do what no team had been able to do in over three weeks—beat Cleveland. Here’s how they pulled off the win.
The Kansas City Royals gave up ninth-inning runs on Wednesday and Thursday to suffer a pair of heartbreaking losses that crippled their already slim postseason hopes. On Friday, the team finally managed a clean ninth inning against Cleveland, and it earned Kansas City a 4-3 win that was huge on a number of fronts.
Firstly, the victory allows the Kansas City Royals to still mathematically claim to be in the thick of the Wild Card race. It also ended an incredible 22-game winning streak by Cleveland. The run set an American League record for consecutive victories.
The streak, which stretched back to Aug. 24, has vaulted Cleveland into arguably the favorite to win the World Series. If the team pulled that off, it would repeat the pattern the Kansas City Royals laid out in 2014-15.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals (73-74) were within a strike of ending Cleveland’s streak on Thursday night. Francisco Lindor, though, knocked a game-tying double off the left-field wall to send the game to extra innings. Cleveland walked off in the 10th.
Ironically enough, Lindor was up again with the game on the line Friday. After getting the best of a struggling Kelvin Herrera on Thursday, Lindor struck out against Mike Minor with the tying run on base. Minor allowed a leadoff single in the ninth before striking out the side to earn his first save of the season.
Depending on who you ask, Cleveland either owns the record for longest winning streak or the 1916 Giants do. The latter team went 26 games unbeaten, but that included one tie. Thus it sees fair to conclude that Cleveland definitely has the longest winning streak.
Jeff Passan agrees:
ESPN Stats & Info does not:
Either way, the Kansas City Royals ended one amazing run.
It looked as though Cleveland might cruise to its 23rd straight win when the team jumped out to a 3-1 lead after three innings. Jose Ramirez, who absolutely torched Kansas City on Thursday, hit a two-run homer off Jason Vargas to break a 1-1 tie.
In the fourth, Brandon Moss hit a solo shot, the Kansas City Royals second of the game. (Alcides Escobar had the other.) Eric Hosmer tied the score with a fifth inning single to score Lorenzo Cain. The center fielder then broke the tie with an RBI-single in the sixth that brought in Alex Gordon.
Vargas only pitched five innings, but Cain’s go-ahead hit earned him the win. It’s his 16th of the season. His solid second-half performances have been few and far between, but he did well to limit the hottest team in baseball to three runs, especially since he gave up five hits and three walks.
The win helps the Kansas City Royals keep their fleeting playoff chances alive. After consecutive walk-off wins, Minnesota dropped a 4-3 decision to Toronto on Friday. It allows the Royals to move within four games of the Twins, but they have a razor-thin margin for error with an elimination number of 12.
Several other Wild Card challengers lost on Friday, as well. Baltimore, Seattle and Tampa Bay lost, while the Angels defeated the Rangers in a battle of playoff hopefuls. The results see Los Angeles pull within two games of Minnesota.
If the Kansas City Royals are going to somehow make a similar push, they’re going to need a couple more wins in Cleveland this weekend—plus a lot of help elsewhere.