Royals, Angels head to 11th inning in ALDS opener
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels headed to the 11th inning tied 2-2 in their AL Division Series opener Thursday night.
Chris Iannetta and David Freese homered for the Angels, but the AL West champions stranded seven runners in the final four innings before heading to extras.
Alcides Escobar had an early RBI double for the Royals, and the bullpen repeatedly escaped trouble in Kansas City's first game since that spectacular, 12-inning comeback victory over Oakland in the wild-card playoff Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Friday night at the Big A, with Angels 16-game winner Matt Shoemaker taking on fellow rookie Yordano Ventura.
Mike Trout was 0 for 4 with a walk in the first 10 innings of his playoff debut. Both teams managed just three hits apiece in a frustrating offensive start - particularly for the Angels.
A pitch from Tim Collins grazed Gordon Beckham's shoe leading off the ninth, and Erick Aybar bunted Beckham to second. After Collins struck out Josh Hamilton, C.J. Cron drew a walk from Jason Frasor - but he retired Iannetta on a grounder to second.
Jered Weaver, Joe Smith and Huston Street combined to retire Kansas City's final 15 batters before extra innings, with the Angels' closer pitching a perfect ninth.
Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera walked Freese on five pitches leading off the seventh and then left the game with right forearm tightness. The right-hander is a key member of the team's vaunted bullpen.
A raucous crowd cheered on the Angels throughout the franchise's first playoff game since 2009. Los Angeles earned home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a big league-best 98-64 record in the regular season, winning the AL West with the highest-scoring offense in the majors.
The Royals still had postseason magic, however: Nori Aoki made dramatically awkward catches on the right-field warning track to end the sixth and seventh, twice making up for poor routes to the Angels' drives with a last-instant stab. Lorenzo Cain also made two exceptional plays in center field in the first two innings, underlining Kansas City's stellar defense.
Weaver yielded three hits over seven strong innings for the Angels while his good friend, Jason Vargas, pitched six innings of three-hit ball for Kansas City.
Weaver and Vargas played together at nearby Long Beach State, and they're taking a vacation together after the season - but first, the former Dirtbags dueled through 6 1/2 tense innings in Orange County.
After Escobar put the Royals ahead, Los Angeles tied it when Iannetta drove a fastball into the bullpens in his first career playoff at-bat. While Trout's October debut received all the pregame attention, the Angels' tough catcher also got his first postseason experience after sitting out twice when his Colorado Rockies made the playoffs.
Kansas City went back ahead in the fifth when Alex Gordon doubled and scored on Omar Infante's sacrifice fly, but Freese tied it again with another drive to the bullpens in left. Freese, the MVP of the 2011 World Series and NLCS for St. Louis, got his 24th postseason extra-base hit and 30th RBI in his Angels playoff debut.
The Angels put two runners on against a tiring Vargas in the sixth, and Royals fans might have had bitter flashbacks to manager Ned Yost's much-debated pitching decisions in the wild-card game. But Aoki got Kansas City out of the jam when he blindly nabbed Howie Kendrick's drive to the warning track in right.
The Angels stranded a runner on third in the seventh when Aoki made another crazy catch, and Wade Davis walked two in the eighth before shutting down Los Angeles again.