With all due respect to the Giants and Pirates, who played each other in a one-game playoff Wednesday, their Wild Card game was an afterthought – in part because San Francisco blasted Pittsburgh, 8-0.
One night earlier, however, Oakland and Kansas City delivered one of the best postseason games in recent memory, with the Royals outlasting the Athletics, 9-8, in 12 innings.
Kansas City trailed 2-0 after the first inning, 7-3 after the seventh, 7-6 entering the bottom of the ninth and 8-7 entering the bottom of the 12th. The Royals’ first lead of the four-hour, 45-minute marathon was the only one that mattered: the final score.
“Oh, guys, I got to tell you,” Royals broadcaster Rex Hudler said on The MoJo Show. “I’ve been really blessed to have had the color commentating seat for this team for the last three years – to watch them grow and become the players they are today. But to feel the pain of the last 29 years of no winning baseball in Kansas City – and to see the fan base start to grow and get behind this ball club – has been really fun. And it came to a head (Tuesday night). You witnessed it. It was so great that they were the only game (on and) that everybody could see the way that they go about their job, how exciting this ball club is (and) how they can win without the long ball. They have no pop whatsoever.”
The Royals finished last in the American League in home runs (95) this year.
“They pitch and play defense,” Hudler said, “and it’s a really tough combination.”
They also bunt and steal bases. Kansas City had seven steals against Oakland and will bring its small-ball brand of baseball to Anaheim. It’s the same brand of baseball that Mike Scioscia used to deliver a World Series to the Angels in 2002.
“Now Scioscia is going to have to defend his own medicine,” said Hudler, who was the Angels’ commentator in 2002, “and it’s going to be interesting (to see) how it pressures defenses, that speed Ned Yost’s ball club has.”
The Royals are the epitome of a small-market team building slowly but surely and developing key pieces like Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, who went a combined 5-for-9 with three RBIs and two walks against Oakland. But there’s no denying who the leader of the team is. That would be 28-year-old right-fielder Lorenzo Cain, who went 2-for-6 with two RBIs on Tuesday.
“He’s a great story,” Hudler said. “This guy didn’t start playing organized ball until his senior year of high school. Baseball’s a game where you got to play when you’re a kid. Some sports you can just pick up if you’re an athlete. That’s the one word that describes Lorenzo Cain. He is a stud. He’s got great athleticism. But (he) is coming on as a hitter now. Lorenzo is emerging as a leader in that clubhouse. He’s got a lot of intangibles. This kid is a future superstar.”
The Royals play the Angels in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at 9:07 p.m. ET.