Having swept their way to the ALCS, the 2014 Kansas City Royals held a 3-0 series lead on Baltimore entering Game 4. Here’s how the team clinched a long-awaited World Series spot.
(Editor’s note: This is one of several on-this-date posts that KoK will publish throughout the 2017 postseason. They will highlight the postseason success of the Kansas City Royals over the years with particular emphasis given to 2014 and 2015—given the strong ties to the current squad.)
After three consecutive narrow wins, the Kansas City Royals were in prime position to sweep the Baltimore Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series. Exactly three years ago, the team did precisely that.
Having won seven straight games to begin the postseason, it seemed the Royals were a team of destiny as they prepared for Game 4 of the ALCS. Nothing that occurred on Oct. 15, 2014, would prove anything to the contrary.
Kansas City looked like it would cruise into its first World Series since 1985 after a wonderful first inning. Against Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez, Alcides Escobar (single) and Nori Aoki (hit-by-pitch) reached to open the game. In a sign of how times have changed, Lorenzo Cain followed with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up 90 feet.
Eric Hosmer stepped in next. He sent the first pitch toward first baseman Steve Pearce, who immediately fired home. Escobar kicked the ball out of catcher Caleb Joseph‘s glove as he slid in. The ball rolled far enough away that Aoki scored easily for an early 2-0 lead.
However, that would be the end of the scoring for the Kansas City Royals.
Pitching Owns the Day
In the first three games of this series, Royals relief pitchers picked up the wins. Wade Davis earned the somewhat misleading honor in each of the first two games. Jason Frasor—thanks in large part to Mike Moustakas‘ other-worldly catch—picked up the victory in Game 3.
Jason Vargas decided to buck that trend with a sensational effort. Long before he tied for the MLB lead in wins, Vargas helped clinch a World Series berth with 5 1/3 glorious frames. He struck out six against just two hits and three walks. His defense helped, most notably when Alex Gordon crashed into the wall on a line-drive by J.J. Hardy.
Vargas’ only blemish came on a solo homer by Ryan Flaherty in the third inning. After Vargas struck out Nick Markakis with a runner on, Kelvin Herrera replaced him to close out the sixth. He managed to do that, despite allowing a two-out single to Adam Jones that put runners on the corners.
Herrera came back to throw a perfect seventh inning. Davis worked around a two-out single to toss a scoreless eighth. Greg Holland, though, made things interesting in the ninth.
A leadoff walk to the free-swinging Jones put the tying run on base. Holland, though, forced Nelson Cruz into a fielder’s choice groundout. He then stuck out Delmon Young and got Hardy to ground to third base. Moustakas fielded the ball right on the line and fired across to Hosmer.
The play by Moustakas brought us one of the top moments of the 2014 playoff run, as the Kansas City Royals celebrated at Kauffman Stadium for the third time in just over two weeks. It also led to owner David Glass being presented the American League Championship Trophy.
It was a moment many Kansas City Royals fans—depending on their age—either thought they would never see again or one they thought they would never see, period. An entire generation of supporters had grown up without ever seeing the team achieve as much as a postseason bid. But it’s hard to argue that it didn’t make it that much sweeter.
Glass summed it up best in the above video when he said, “We’ve waited for this for a while, but it’s worth it.”