The old saying is “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” But for the KC Royals and Baltimore Orioles, pretty much everything has changed since the two clubs met in the 2014 American League Championship Series.
After weather prevented them from playing Friday and Saturday, the teams split a doubleheader Sunday (the Royals won the opener 6-4, the Orioles the nightcap 4-2) and complete their three-game series in an 11:05 a.m. CDT contest today. But instead of Kansas City and Baltimore battling for a shot at the World Series, the 2021 clubs are both trying to stay out of last place in their divisions.
Although the Royals swept that 2014 ALCS in four games, it was far from a blowout. The Royals scored just 18 runs and only outscored Baltimore by six. Kansas City starters picked up just one win, that by Jason Vargas in Game 4.
Royals reliever Wade Davis and Orioles reliever Darren O’Day got the decisions in Royal comebacks in the first two games. Greg Holland picked up saves in all four contests.
If you’re looking for players involved in the 2014 ALCS who brought back memories over the weekend in Baltimore, only Salvador Perez is left for the Royals. Perez has continued to leave a mark in team history over the years, including a record-breaking 2021 season.
The KC Royals relied on late hitting to take the first two ALCS games.
Game 1 in Baltimore was tied 5-5 after six innings, highlighted by an Alcides Escobar solo home run and a three-run double from Alex Gordon in the Royal fourth. Gordon led off the top of the 10th with a home run to put Kansas City ahead 6-5, and Mike Moustakas added a two-run homer to give the Royals the margin of victory in an 8-6 win.
Although Eric Hosmer singled home two runs in the first inning of Game 2, Billy Butler doubled in a run in the third and Moustakas added a solo home run in the fourth, the clubs were locked in a 4-4 tie after five innings.
Escobar doubled home pinch runner Terrance Gore with one out in the ninth inning and then scored on a single by series Most Valuable Player Lorenzo Cain to plate the final runs in a 6-4 win.
The KC Royals finished the sweep by identical-score wins in Games 3 and 4.
The ALCS moved to Kansas City and the Orioles led Game 3 1-0 when the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Cain and Hosmer singled and Butler walked ahead of a groundout by Gordon, who had been 0-for-5 with five strikeouts since his heroics in Game 1.
Starter Jeremy Guthrie pitched a strong five innings, giving up just one run on three hits. Baltimore collected two hits and a run in the second inning and added a leadoff single in the third. Guthrie walked Ryan Flaherty with two outs in the Baltimore fourth before retiring the last four hitters he faced. The bullpen was excellent for the Royals as Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Davis and Holland each worked an inning and each retired the Orioles in order.
Royals pitchers retired 16 straight to end the game, but hitting was hard to come until Nori Aoki singled to lead off the Kansas City sixth and Hosmer singled pinch runner Jarrod Dyson to third ahead before Butler’s sacrifice provided the final run in a 2-1 decision.
The bottom of the first in Game 4 started with a single by Escobar and Aoki was hit by a Miguel González pitch. Cain successfully bunted both runners into scoring position. A groundout by Hosmer plated Escobar and Aoki came home when the throw home got away from Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph to give the Royals a 2-0 early edge.
Those runs were enough for Royals starter Vargas, who got the Orioles in order in the first to extend the streak to 19 consecutive outs for Kansas City pitching. Flaherty homered leading off the Baltimore third inning to cut the edge to 2-1.
Herrera relieved Vargas with one out in the sixth and combined with Davis and Holland to finish off the O’s and send the Royals to their third World Series in club history.
Although the Royals couldn’t complete the job in the 2014 World Series, much of that team came back to form the core of the 2015 Championship team.