9. Punching World Series Ticket
After winning their first seven postseason games, the Kansas City Royals were on the precipice of sweeping their way to the World Series. The only thing left to do was to close out the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning of Game 4.
In hindsight, the Royals still had a great chance to win the ALCS even with a loss in Game 4. But given the momentum—or sheer luck—the team was riding, it seemed this was the time. Not to mention the possibility of Games 6 and 7 being played on the road.
This felt like the moment. Greg Holland on the mound with a 2-1 lead. No margin for error.
He got two quick strikes on Adam Jones. The veteran free-swinger battled back to draw a rare walk after an eight-pitch at-bat. The tying run had reached first base.
Up stepped Nelson Cruz, who hit a league-leading 40 home runs during the regular season. On a 1-0 pitch, he hit a comebacker to Holland. He threw Jones out at second, but Cruz reached safely.
Next up was Delmon Young—the hero of Baltimore’s ALDS victory over Detroit. He fouled off a few pitches, but Holland got him to chase a slider away to strike out.
On a 1-2 pitch, J.J. Hardy hit a chopper down the third base line. Mike Moustakas fielded it cleanly and fired a strike to Hosmer. The first baseman barely kept his foot on the bag long enough, as he came leaping off the base to celebrate the final out.