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Royals pound Angels to earn sweep, first trip to ALCS since '85

It only took nine innings for the first time this postseason, but the Royals beat the Angles 8-3 to complete a three game sweep of the team with the best regular-season record in the majors this year.

Mike Trout and Albert Pujols hit solo home runs, but otherwise Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Kauffman Stadium Sunday night was all Royals. With that win, the Royals improved to 4-0 on the postseason and advanced to the American League Championship Series, where they will take on the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a sweep of the Tigers in Detroit earlier on Sunday. The ALCS will open in Baltimore on Friday night.

Trout’s home run off Kansas City starter James Shields came in the top of the first inning, giving the Angels their only lead of the series. That lead didn’t last long. The Royals knocked Angels starter C.J. Wilson out of the game in the bottom of the first by loading the bases for Alex Gordon, who hit a two-out, bases-clearing double to give Kansas City a 3-1 lead and bounce Wilson from the game.

In the third inning, Game 2 hero Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer off Hector Santiago to inflate the lead to 5-1 and bounce the man who was supposed to be the Angels’ long man from the game. From there, the rest of the game was a victory lap for Kansas City.

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Immediately after Hosmer’s homer, Billy Butler walked then stole second base. Yes, Billy Butler. Butler was ultimately stranded at third, but after Pujols’ shot in the top of the fourth, Game 1 hero Mike Moustakas answered with a solo homer of his own, after which the Royals added another run on singles by Alcides Escobar and Norichika Aoki and a sacrifice fly from Lorenzo Cain to make it 7-2. In the top of the fifth, the Angels put two men on with one out only to have Cain make two outstanding catches in center field on consecutive batters to strand both runners.

In the bottom of the sixth, Kansas City added another run when Omar Infante drew a leadoff walk and came around to score. In the seventh, Kelvin Herrera, who had left Game 1 after issuing a five pitch walk with what was ultimately diagnosed as a flexor strain in his right forearm, came out of the bullpen to work a 1-2-3 inning against the top of the Angels order.

The Angels wound up using eight pitchers in the game, with only the last, swing man Cory Rasmus, recording more than four outs. The Royals, meanwhile, stuck to the plan, following a quality start by Shields with their relief troika of Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, who worked a perfect ninth and struck out Trout to seal the win for Kansas City.

With that, this year’s ALCS will feature two teams who have averaged 30 years since their last pennant. Much has been made about the fact that the Royals haven’t been in the playoffs since their championship season of 1985, and for good reason, but the Orioles haven’t been to the World Series since the last time they won it, either, that being in 1983. One of those two pennant droughts is about to be broken.