Royals sweep their way to ALCS date with O's

Royals sweep their way to ALCS date with O's

KANSAS CITY -- Color Kansas City blue. Royal blue. Folks could paint the town -- not red, but blue -- to celebrate the biggest baseball boom in nearly three decades after their Royals swept the American League Division Series from the Angels in three games.

The Royals eliminated the Angels, 8-3, to the immense delight of the 40,657 full-throated fans at Kauffman Stadium and an entire Missouri-Kansas community on Sunday night. Now they will take on the Orioles in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series starting on Friday night at Baltimore.

Cowtown hasn't seen such excitement over the ol' cowhide ball since 1985, the year the Royals beat the Cardinals in the World Series. Now they're one step away from another Fall Classic.

"I'm more happy for the fans than anyone else, because they waited a long time to get to this point," owner David Glass said, drenched in champagne in the clubhouse celebration. "But listen, we're not at the end. We're at the beginning of something that could be really good."

The Royals wiped out the Angels with Alex Gordon's three-run double, homers by Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, three hits from Nori Aoki and assorted other contributors.

James Shields worked the first six innings, giving up two runs on solo homers by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. The bullpen did the rest.

Kelvin Herrera came back from an arm ailment throwing 101 mph and pitched a perfect seventh. Wade Davis gave up one run in the eighth, then shut things down. Greg Holland worked a 1-2-3 ninth, and the party was on.

"This is exciting. I think we're all kind of in shock that it went three games like that," Davis said. "I am. I expected it to be a pretty tough series, and it was -- the first two games went extra innings."

Not this one, though.

When Trout broke his utter silence in the series with his homer in the first inning, you might have thought you could have heard a pin drop. You would have thought wrong. There was no silencing this Cowtown posse, brandishing their blue and white towels.

One solo home run -- nothing. Or so it seemed after the Royals completed their half of the first inning.

Not only did Gordon pound a three-run double to the wall in left-center, he knocked out Angels starter C.J. Wilson in the process. Yes, Wilson, who had never lost to the Royals in his career, was dismissed forthwith by manager Mike Scioscia.

Wilson got in trouble by giving up one-out singles to Aoki and Lorenzo Cain, which, of course, raised the pulse rates of the bluebloods in the stands. Hosmer was called out on a third strike that he viewed dubiously, then Billy Butler walked on four straight pitches. Gordon crashed a 2-2 slider into the gap, and all three runners scampered madly, including the not-so-speedy Butler, who slid dramatically across home plate just ahead of the throw.

"Trout hit that home run, and it was good for us to respond like we did," Gordon said. "Good job by the guys getting on base and making something happen and putting me in a good situation."

That set the tone for the evening.

By that point, Kauffman Stadium was rocking, and the roar surely could be heard from Lake Jacomo down to the Plaza. Butler and the boys pumped fists and made their merry way to the dugout.

"We love each other in here, and we're playing like it, too," Butler said.

The Angels began a parade of eight pitchers, but the Royals just kept going.

Left-hander Hector Santiago was on the mound when Aoki started the Royals' third with a walk. After an out, up came Hosmer, the home-run hero of Game 2. In came a 2-0 fastball, and out it went in a 418-foot journey just shy of the waterfall deep into the stands in left-center. The home run made it 5-1.

Now the Royals were really feeling spunky. Butler walked and stole -- yes, stole -- second base on lefty Santiago and kicked away the ball as he slid into the bag. That didn't result in more scoring, but the sight of big Billy imitating Jarrod Dyson, his longtime pinch-runner, certainly entertained the throng. After all, Butler hadn't pilfered a sack since July 5, 2012.

"It's the first time I've had the green light," Butler said, smiling.

Just to settle things down a bit, Pujols -- a product of Kansas City schools and ballyards -- opened the Angels' fourth with a home run into the left-field seats.

In a retaliatory strike, Moustakas, the homer hero of Game 1, launched his own shot off reliever Mike Morin over the right-field bullpen. More pandemonium.

"It's an unbelievable atmosphere," Shields said. "This is a special time in this city right now, and they're enjoying this as much as we are."

Shields got some help from the defense, which was already spectacularly on display in this series. Cain put on a one-man show with two on and one out in the fifth with two diving catches -- first on Pujols and then on Howie Kendrick.

If those liners had fallen in?

"I think it's a whole new ballgame, I think it is," Scioscia said. "You're probably looking at a one- or two-run game if both those hits drop in, but they didn't."

Rain tried to dampen things. Drops fell briefly in the fifth inning, then returned in a heavier form in the bottom of the seventh. But Mother Nature gave up; she couldn't stop the Royals, either. They were headed for a champagne shower.

"The momentum is through the roof right now," Cain said. "We're having a blast."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.