Royals hold off Orioles, 2-1, finish ALCS sweep

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Royals hold off Orioles, 2-1, finish ALCS sweep
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland and catcher Salvador Perez celebrate after defeating against the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland celebrates after defeating against the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals advance to World Series. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Eric Hosmer #35 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals celebrate their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: The Kansas City Royals celebrate their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
The Baltimore Orioles leave their dugout as Kansas City Royals fans celebrate after a series-clinching, 2-1 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: David Glass, Owner and Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City Royals, hoist the William Harridge Award after their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kansas City Royals' Jarrod Dyson puts the championship trophy on home plate after the Royals defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez holds the trophy as he celebrates with fans after the Royals defeated the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals' Omar Infante holds the trophy after the Royals defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals' James Shields kisses the trophy after the Royals defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Eric Hosmer #35 and Salvador Perez #13 of the Kansas City Royals celebrate in the locker room after their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals celebrate in the locker room after their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar (2) slides safely at home against Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph during the first inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar scores against Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph during the first inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar (2) slides safely at home against Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph during the fist inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals' Alcides Escobar scores ahead of the tag from Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph during the first inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kansas City Royals' Norichika Aoki is hit by a pitch from Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals fans cheer as relief pitcher Wade Davis throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) and relief pitcher Wade Davis react after Baltimore Orioles' Kelly Johnson ground out to the pitch during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera throws during the seventh inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez leaves the game during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter walks back to the dugout after making a pitching change during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Baltimore Orioles' Nelson Cruz wipes his face after lining out during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon leaps to make a catch on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon leaps to make a catch on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon leaps to make a catch on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon hits the fence after making a catch on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon hits the fence after making a catch on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Baltimore Orioles' Nelson Cruz watches during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Baltimore Orioles' Nelson Cruz reacts after striking out during the fourth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Manager Buck Showalter #26 walks back to the dugout after relieving Miguel Gonzalez #50 of the Baltimore Orioles in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas (51) is taken out of the game during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas (51) is taken out of the game during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Fans cheer as Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas (51) is taken out during sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas throws during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals players and fans celebrate after Alcides Escobar scores during the first inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Miguel Gonzalez #50 of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Darren O'Day throws during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Ryan Flaherty #3 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates with Jonathan Schoop #6 after hitting a solo home run to right field against Jason Vargas #51 of the Kansas City Royals in the third inning during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Baltimore Orioles' Ryan Flaherty reacts after striking out during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera reacts after striking out Baltimore Orioles' Caleb Joseph in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera reacts after striking out Baltimore Orioles' Caleb Joseph in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera throws during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Kansas City Royals fans watch during the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas reacts after left fielder Alex Gordon made a leaping catch on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Caleb Joseph #36 of the Baltimore Orioles walks back to the dugout after striking out in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Kelvin Herrera #40 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Alcides Escobar #2 of the Kansas City Royals leads off of first base in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Kansas City Royals fans cheer during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the American League baseball championship series against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: Former Kansas City Royals Frank White watches as the Kansas City Royals celebrate their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Kansas City Royals' Jarrod Dyson and Billy Butler hold the championship trophy after the Royals defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win the American League baseball championship series Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Crown these Royals the American League champions.

After nearly three decades spent trying to return to the playoffs, Kansas City is taking its perfect postseason ride all the way to the World Series.

With more dominant defense, an opportunistic offense that plated two runs in the first inning, and a bullpen that shut down the Baltimore Orioles once again, Greg Holland and the wild-card Royals wrapped up a sweep of the AL Championship Series with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday.

Next stop: The Royals' first Fall Classic since 1985. They'll face the winner of the NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals. San Francisco leads that series 2-1.

"It's been an amazing run. This is great," said left fielder Alex Gordon, who made another jarring catch. "We've been playing pretty good baseball. It's nothing better than when you win. Today, same old story: good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win."

Outfielder Lorenzo Cain was selected MVP of the ALCS, batting .533 and leading an outstanding defense.

Butler:


After holding the Orioles to three hits in Game 3 on Tuesday night, Jason Vargas and the Royals bullpen nearly turned the trick again. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis ushered the game to Holland, who matched Dennis Eckersley's record by saving his fourth game of the best-of-seven series.

After Holland got J.J. Hardy to ground out to third base for the final out, the Royals spilled onto the infield in a wild celebration. Fireworks shot over the crown-shaped scoreboard in center field, and a blue-clad sellout crowd that included Royals great George Brett let out a roar.

Kansas City will host the first two World Series games beginning Tuesday. Coincidentally, it was the Cardinals who the Royals beat for their only World Series title in a dramatic seven-game series.

Regardless of the opponent, the Royals will carry an 11-game playoff win streak into the World Series, one shy of the major league record. That includes winning their first eight games this season, something that had never been done in postseason history. Kansas City beat Oakland in the wild card and swept the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series.

"Man, it's incredible," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who drove in a run. "These guys every day come to play. If they're not doing it offensively, they're doing it defensively with the glove, just playing complete games and we've got guys stepping up right now."

The Orioles, meanwhile, will limp into the offseason after their first sweep in 21 playoff series, dating to the days when the club was called the St. Louis Browns.

Making his first start in nearly two weeks, Vargas shut down the vaunted Orioles lineup. The only damage he allowed came in the third inning, when Ryan Flaherty led off with a home run that just skirted the foul pole in right field.

By that point, the Royals had already manufactured a pair of runs.

Alcides Escobar singled off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez to open the game, and Nori Aoki was drilled on the right knee a couple pitches later. Royals manager Ned Yost then opted to bunt with Cain, one of his hottest hitters, to advance both of the runners.

It was a questionable decision so early in the game. But like almost every unorthodox move that Yost has made this postseason, it worked out perfectly - for the first sacrifice of Cain's career.

Hosmer followed with a chopping groundball, and first baseman Steve Pearce went home with it. Escobar slid safely and the ball bounded away from catcher Caleb Joseph, allowing Aoki to follow his teammate home and giving the scrappy, small-ball Royals a 2-0 lead.

After that, it was up to their defense and bullpen.

Escobar turned a pair of double plays early in the game to help Vargas escape jams, and Gordon made a spectacular catch while crashing into the left-field wall to rob Hardy of extra bases leading off the fifth inning. In the sixth, second baseman Omar Infante was in perfect position to snag Nelson Cruz's line drive and leave runners on the corners.

Herrera breezed through the seventh and Davis handled the eighth, just as they have all season, and Holland slammed the door on his fourth save of the series.

And set off of a wild celebration that had been 29 years in the making.

"It wasn't pretty. It's all right, though. We find ways to win," Gordon said. "Good teams find ways to win, and that's what we did. So we're going to keep going and hope we make it even more special here."

In the midst of it all was Yost, the often-criticized Royals manager who has guided a collection of budding young stars to baseball's grandest stage. In doing so, Yost became the first manager in major league history to win his first eight postseason games.

Now, just four more stand in the way of an improbable World Series championship.

TIGHT GAMES

The Royals' win was the 14th decided by one run this postseason, topping the record set in 2011 and tied last year.

UP NEXT

Royals: The Royals are back in the World Series for the third time in franchise history, and the first since beating the Cardinals in `85. "It's been incredible to watch," said three-time All-Star Bret Saberhagen, one of the star pitchers on that team.

Orioles: It's on to the offseason for a team that overcame a series of injuries (Matt Wieters, Manny Machado) and suspensions (Chris Davis) to reach the ALCS. Baltimore still has not made it back to the World Series since 1983.

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