Sports

MLB Playoffs

Alex Gordon powers Royals past Orioles in Game 1 of ALCS

By Mike Rutsey, Toronto Sun

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon hits a home run against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series playoff at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Oct. 10, 2014. (H. DARR BEISER/USA Today)

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon hits a home run against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series playoff at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Oct. 10, 2014. (H. DARR BEISER/USA Today)

BALTIMORE - 

The rain finally showed up and in the end so too did Alex Gordon.

It just took a while.

Gordon had a game for the ages in the opener of the best-of-seven ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. He capped it off with a solo home run leading off the 10th inning, helping power the Kansas City Royals to an 8-6 victory, their fourth extra-inning victory in their magical mystery run through the post-season.

“We just find ways to win ballgames,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Sometimes it’s hitting home runs, sometimes it’s stealing bases and manufacturing home runs. Most of the time it’s with good pitching and defence. These guys all find a way to get it done.”

All Gordon accomplished this game was to drive in four runs, bang out three hits, make a dazzling sliding catch in left and oh yeah, he also got hit high in the shoulder with the ball deflecting up off his head in the eighth.

What pleased Yost more?

“The bases-loaded double, when he hit it, I thought that ball was going to hook foul but he really did a nice job staying inside it and got English on the ball and instead of hooking foul it hooked back fair,” Yost said. “If I had to take my pick it would be the bases-loaded double but the catch was phenomenal. He had a great night.”

Gordon’s home run came one inning after the Royals had the bases loaded and nobody out and failed to score.

“Just trying to put a good at-bat together, get on base any way I could,” he said of his game plan in the at-bat. “Sometimes you get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. Those things happen. Usually when you’re not trying to hit a home run is when you do it.”

The top of the ninth provided unbelievable stuff for the O’s and momentary heartbreak for the Royals.

Thanks to the wildness of O’s reliever Zack Britton, he walked the bases full without recording an out but the Royals couldn’t punch a run across.

Britton ran the count full on Eric Hosmer before his chopper to first was fielded by Steve Pearce, who fired home and just beat Escobar for the force.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter turned to Darren O’Day and he got his team out of the inning unscathed as he induced Billy Butler to ground into a 6-4-4 double play.

After Wade Davis set the O’s down in order in the bottom of the ninth, Gordon ripped a 1-1 pitch off O’Day for the game-winning run. Mike Moustakas would add a two-run home run to complete the scoring.

If we are in store for six more wild ones like this, it will be one sweet joyride for fans of the game.

The rain? It was forecast to fall most of the day but stayed away until the bottom of the sixth and arrived with a light shower.

The stolen base is one of the Royals' main strengths but their running game backfired as Gordon was picked off first and Jarrod Dyson was tossed out attempting to steal second when he took his foot off the bag after sliding in safe.

This series was billed as the battle between the Orioles' power and the Royals' speed but it was Kansas City that came up with the big hits when opportunity came knocking in the early going.

A four-run third inning highlighted by a three-run double by Gordon shot the Royals into an early lead.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar got it started in the third with a one-out, solo shot to left. Escobar, who played in all 162 games during the regular season, hit just three home runs during the year in 579 at-bats.

Nori Aoki followed with a single and Orioles starter Chris Tillman dug himself a deeper hole by walking Lorenzo Cain on four pitches. Tillman came back to strike out Eric Hosmer and the inning then turned in the Royals' favour in Billy Butler’s at-bat.

Butler hit a grounder into the hole that J.J. Hardy made a nice play on but his long throw across the diamond short-hopped Steve Pearce at first and when he couldn’t squeeze it the bases were full instead of the inning being over.

Gordon made them pay as on a 2-2 pitch he broke his bat but the ball carried about 200 feet down the first-base line and landed some 10 feet fair. Three runs would score and the Royals were out to a 4-0 lead.

Coming through in the clutch is nothing new for Gordon, however, as he hit .338 (44-for-130) with RISP this season, sixth best in the American League.

To add insult to injury, Gordon came back in the bottom of the inning to make a sensational diving catch in left on a drive by Pearce to end the inning and stop a potential O’s rally in its tracks.

SECRET STUFF

Buck Showalter was playing it close to the vest. The Orioles manager no doubt knew just who his starter would be for Game 2 Saturday afternoon but he wasn’t about to divulge the news prior to Friday’s Game 1. It would be determined by who or who he didn't use coming out of the bullpen.

“Yeah, if we don’t use Wei-Yin (Chen) or Bud (Norris), tomorrow we know where we’re going,” Showalter said Friday. “And hopefully we won’t have to use them tonight.

“But both those guys and Miguel (Gonzalez) are in the bullpen tonight and we’re going to do everything we can to try to win tonight’s game and let the smoke clear and see where we’re at. It will be either Wei-Yin or Bud tomorrow.”

After the game he broke down and announced it was going to be Norris.

ACE VENTURA

Yordano Ventura, who was shaky in his maiden post-season voyage in a relief role against the Oakland A’s in the wild-card game, will be the Royals' starter in Game 2 Saturday afternoon.

Ventura came back to provide a quality outing in his start against the Los Angeles Angels in their Division Series. He doesn’t believe that the pressure will get to him against the Orioles.

“The first outing for me there was a little bit more pressure but after that one, when I made my start in the LDS. I felt very comfortable,” Ventura said Friday. “It was back to business as usual where I just want to go out and help my team and be an effective pitcher.”


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