KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Crown these Royals the American League champions.
After nearly three decades spent trying to return to the playoffs, Kansas City is taking its perfect postseason ride all the way to the World Series.
With more dominant defense, an opportunistic offense that plated two runs in the first inning and a bullpen that shut down the Baltimore Orioles once again, Greg Holland and the wild-card Royals wrapped up a sweep of the American League Championship Series with a 2-1 victory Wednesday.
Next stop: The Royals’ first Fall Classic since 1985. They’ll face the winner of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. San Francisco leads 2-1.
“It’s been an amazing run. This is great,” said left fielder Alex Gordon, who made another jarring catch Wednesday. “We’ve been playing pretty good baseball. It’s nothing better than when you win. Today, same old story: good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win.”
After holding the Orioles to three hits in Game 3 on Tuesday night, Jason Vargas and the Royals bullpen nearly turned the trick again. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis ushered the game to Holland, who matched Dennis Eckersley’s record by saving his fourth game in the ALCS.
After Holland got J.J. Hardy to ground out to third base for the final out, the Royals spilled onto the infield in a wild celebration. Fireworks shot over the crown-shaped scoreboard in center field, and a blue-clad sellout crowd that included Royals great George Brett let out a roar.
Kansas City will host the first two World Series games beginning Tuesday.
Coincidentally, it was the Cardinals who the Royals beat for their only World Series title in a dramatic seven-game series.
Regardless of the opponent, the Royals will carry an 11-game playoff win streak into the World Series, one shy of the major league record. That includes winning their first eight games this season, something that had never been done in postseason history.
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