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Royals down Orioles, 2-1, win American League pennant

Here are four things we learned about the game that sent the Royals to the World Series.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 MLB Bracket

The Royals won Game 4, 2-1, eliminating the Orioles and winning the American League pennant. They'll face either the Cardinals or Giants in the World Series, which starts on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The Kansas City Royals. Quite literally in the World Series.

Jason Vargas, signed to fill in the middle of the rotation, pitched like more of an ace, throwing 5⅓ innings of one-run ball. He struck out six, and his only mistake was allowing a dinger to Ryan Flaherty. The Royals were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, but it'll take more than that to stop this juggernaut.

We've learned a few things along the journey of Game 4, and we'd like to share them with you:

The Royals are in the World Series because of their defense

As if you needed a reminder, the Royals can catch the ball. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Norichika Aoki fly around the outfield, and the worst defender in the infield might be Omar Infante ... who's pretty freaking good. Infante got the game started, ranging far to his right to snare a grounder up the middle and make an off-balance throw to get Nick Markakis. One pitch later, Gordon made a fantastic catch on a Steve Pearce liner. Three pitches into the game, and the Royals were already hopping around like a jittery bird of paradise, catching everything in sight.

The play of the game, though, was Gordon's catch of what looked to be a sure double:

That's better with sound, by the way. Or worse, depending on how adverse you are to Gordon feeling pain. He was fine, though, and Vargas pitched a perfect fifth inning that needed an asterisk, preferably one that was in the shape of the hole Gordon made in the wall.

Delmon Young is here to remind us about sample size

Delmon Young can be a thing in the postseason. An unlikely, unbelievable thing. He has nine career homers in the postseason, more than Joe DiMaggio (eight postseason series) or Robinson Cano (11 playoff series), and he's slugging .541 in his postseason career. This is also the sixth-straight season with Young in the postseason. You know what they say, correlation is what causes the sensation. Or something, I don't really pay attention to these things, but the point is that Young has been a postseason beast.

In Game 4, Young came up to bat three times with a runner on first -- which counts as a rally against the Royals these days -- twice ending the inning with a double play and striking out in the ninth with the tying run on base. It turns out he isn't postseason magic. He is only Delmon Young, baseball player of dubious talent. He's probably not the personification of a baseball god, here to remind us about sample size, but he's probably a lesser imp or sprite, like something of a Lev Grossman novel, sent by one of the baseball gods to remind us about sample size.

Here's your reminder about sample size in the postseason, then: Delmon Young. He ain't magic. Occasionally, he hits into double plays, and by "occasionally," we mean constantly.

The Royals, though, are legitimately magic

They've won 11 straight postseason games, just one short of the all-time mark held by the 1927, 1928, and 1932 Yankees. Here's how the Royals scored all of their runs:

  • Infield grounder
  • Hit-by-pitch
  • Bunt
  • Fielder's choice
  • Catcher error (ball kicked out of mitt)

That qualifies as a Royals barrage. It's hilarious. It's terrifying. It's long overdue and possibly beautiful to everyone who isn't an Orioles fan. It's one thing that they're getting hits by sticking their bats out and closing their eyes, but they're also complementing that strategy with dingers, plenty of dingers. The Royals scored fewer runs than the league average and finished dead last in the American League in adjusted OPS and home runs. Yet they were good enough to make the postseason. If you've watched them, now you get it. The starting pitching is good enough. The bullpen is unfathomable. They're fast. They can catch the ball like few other teams.

And, when it suits them, they'll use card tricks and hidden pockets to score just enough runs to win.


The last pitcher to lose a Royals postseason game was Bud Black. He gave up a homer to Willie McGee.

The Royals are unstoppable! The Royals are unstoppable! The Royals are ...

Since divisional play began in 1969, Royals are only team to start playoffs 8-0. The only other teams to reach the World Series with an unblemished postseason record since '69: The 1976 Reds and the 2007 Rockies. That's one of the greatest teams in baseball history and ... one of the ... I don't know, best teams in Rockies history. The former won the World Series. The latter didn't.

But the Royals can. They're four wins away. They're four wins away from winning the World Series.

The Royals.

The Kansas City Royals.

World Series.

I can't even ...

Congratulations to everyone involved, from George Brett on down. The Kansas City Royals are heading to the World Series. Baseball is fun in Kansas City again.


Baseball is fun in Kansas City.