Buckle up: October roller coaster just getting started

Wild night in Steel City on deck after postseason opens with KC thriller

Buckle up: October roller coaster just getting started

Toughness, heart, an unwillingness to give up. Oh, and clutch hits by Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez. Those were just a few of the things that helped the Kansas City Royals knock off the valiant Oakland A's in a 12-inning K.C. masterpiece on Tuesday night.

The back-and-forth, win-or-go-home American League Wild Card Game in front of a boisterous Kauffman Stadium crowd that hadn't seen a live playoff game, let alone a victory, since 1985, will go down as an all-time classic.

"That's the most incredible game I've ever been a part of," manager Ned Yost said after his team won Tuesday to punch a ticket to Anaheim to face the Angels. "Our fans were, man, unbelievable. Our guys never quit. When we fell behind there in the fifth inning, sixth inning, they kept battling back. They weren't going to be denied. It was just a great game."

And it was only the first game of this entire postseason.

Wednesday will give us the second.

The Pirates will host the Giants in the National League Wild Card Game and as a Division Series qualifier. And a young Pirates team that learned a lot about its October run a year ago will be playing to black-clad, riled-up PNC Park fans who would like to witness more than one game in the Steel City.

In other words, welcome to October, which already had plenty of unforgettable Wild Card drama in the books while it was technically still September.

Tuesday's game will be replayed on the televisions and in the minds of baseball fans for a long time.

The Royals got an early 3-2 lead on the A's and postseason ace Jon Lester, but Oakland scored five runs in the sixth to take a four-run lead.

Kansas City wouldn't go easily, though. The Royals scratched out three in the eighth to cut the lead to one, one in the ninth to tie it, and, after Oakland had taken an 8-7 lead in the top of the 12th, two more to win it.

"Oh, man, it was a roller-coaster ride, just like you said," said Hosmer, who tripled in the 12th and scored the tying run. "Both teams battled back the whole night. For us to come down from a four-run deficit late in the game like that, it was crazy. But this game just kept going back and forth, back and forth, both teams battled, and I think that's what postseason baseball is all about."

So Pittsburgh, Buc up. You're next in the October batting order.

While the A's and Royals were getting ready for their marathon on Tuesday, the Pirates and Giants were working out at PNC, getting used to what will be a rip-roaring stadium come Wednesday night.

The Pirates won their Wild Card Game last year over the Reds, taking advantage of the raucous home atmosphere to advance. They didn't make it past the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, however, so they have a score to settle. Now they're back in the same game in the same place with the same core that includes Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin plus the invaluable Josh Harrison, a first-time All-Star in 2014.

"The experience component can play, because there are going to be times when you need to play slow," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "And what I mean by that is you step back, take a deep breath, slow down the heartbeat.

"Trust is a big part of this whole Wild Card mentality. It's not a shootout, you're not a gunslinger. There has to be some trust involved, not just in yourself, not just in your teammates, but in your skill set in those tipping-point times in games when you need to be productive."

The Giants finished the regular season with the same record as Pittsburgh and are always dangerous as long as Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and that pitching staff takes the field.

This is the team that won the last two World Series (2010, 2012) played in even-numbered years, after all, and this is an even-numbered year. The Giants stayed afloat through a season marked by injuries to core members of the team such as Matt Cain, Marco Scutaro and Michael Morse and inconsistent periods of play. They're back in the playoffs, and they're tested in that arena.

"Once you get on the field, it's just the game of baseball," Pence said. "But it's a new team, a new year. With experience, you know how to handle your emotions. You know what's going to be there.

"It's exciting, but, really, it's a new day and every day is a new day."

The pitching matchup for the NL Wild Card Game is full of intrigue, from both sides of the mound.

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner of the Giants brings a 2014 resume of a career-high 18 wins and a stacked postseason resume with him despite the fact that he's only 25 years old. This is a guy, after all, who has been in the starting rotation for a team that won the World Series in 2010 and '12. And Bumgarner won a game in each of those Fall Classics, pitching 15 total innings without giving up a run.

This year, all he's done on the road is go 11-4 record with a 2.22 ERA. He sounds like a guy who was made to handle this pressure.

"That just makes it fun," Bumgarner said. "Whether you're at home and they're cheering for you or you're on the road and everybody's against you. It's not like football, where you can't hear the plays being called out.

"I expect it to be electric. I'll be prepared for it."

The Pirates are hoping for the same approach from right-hander Edinson Volquez, who rediscovered his top form this year under the tutelage of pitching coach Ray Searage. Volquez has been particularly nasty at home, having allowed four earned runs in his last five starts in Pittsburgh.

"He's pitched a number of games here where the crowd was electric," Hurdle said. "It's going to be different. He's a live wire."

And that electricity will be felt throughout baseball once again as the pulse of the postseason continues to beat.

Wednesday's NL Wild Card Game

Giants (Bumgarner, 18-10) at Pirates (Volquez, 13-7), 8 p.m. ET Preview

Bumgarner is 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA in seven playoff outings (six starts). Volquez's only postseason appearance was a loss for Cincinnati against Philadelphia in the 2010 NLDS in which he gave up four runs on four hits in a 1 2/3-inning start.

2014 MLB POSTSEASON MATCHUPS

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card Game: Royals 9, Athletics 8 (12 innings)
Division Series: Royals at Angels | Tigers at Orioles

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wild Card Game: Giants at Pirates
Division Series: Giants/Pirates winner at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers

2014 postseason schedule

AL Wild Card Game
Royals 9, Athletics 8 (12 innings)

NL Wild Card Game
Giants at Pirates, Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

AL Division Series
Game 1: Royals at Angels, Thursday, 9 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 2: Royals at Angels, Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 3: Angels at Royals, Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 4*: Angels at Royals, Monday, TBD (TBS)
Game 5*: Royals at Angels, Wednesday, Oct. 8 (TBS)
* - if necessary

Game 1: Tigers at Orioles, Thursday, 5:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 2: Tigers at Orioles, Friday, TBD (TBS)
Game 3: Orioles at Tigers, Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 4*: Orioles at Tigers, Monday, Oct. 6, TBD (TBS)
Game 5*: Tigers at Orioles, Wednesday, Oct. 8, TBD (TBS)
* - if necessary

NL Division Series
Game 1: Giants/Pirates winner at Nationals, Friday, TBD (FOX Sports 1)

Game 2: Giants/Pirates winner at Nationals, Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1)
Game 3: Nationals at Giants/Pirates winner, Monday, TBD (MLB Network)
Game 4*: Nationals at Giants/Pirates winner, Tuesday, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
Game 5*: Giants/Pirates winner at Nationals, Thursday, Oct. 9, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
* - if necessary

Game 1: Cardinals at Dodgers, Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1)
Game 2: Cardinals at Dodgers, Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
Game 3: Dodgers at Cardinals, Monday, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
Game 4*: Dodgers at Cardinals, Tuesday, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
Game 5*: Cardinals at Dodgers, Thursday, Oct. 9, TBD (FOX Sports 1)
* - if necessary

AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 10
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 11
World Series begins: Oct. 21

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.