Top 20 Most Impactful Plays in Royals Postseason History

Share Button

The Royals are one of the most successful expansion franchises in baseball and they had their share of postseason memories.  From Game 1 of the 1976 ALCS to Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, they Royals have had many moments that left fans cheering. 

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Baseball Reference (if you don’t do your research through them, you’re doing it wrong), I compiled the most 20 most impactful plays in Royals postseason history.  The way to make the list was how much a play WPA (Win Probability Addition).  Some of the plays on here were surprising and some weren’t.

However, here you go.  The Top 20 plays in Royals postseason history.

T-20.  George Brett’s 2-run homer ties the game.

Series:  1985 American League Championship Series – Game 3

Opponent:  Toronto Blue Jays

Venue:  Royals Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 6th

Score:  Blue Jays 5, Royals 3

WPA:  26%

The Royals came home to Kansas City after losing the first two in Toronto.  The Royals took an early 2-0 lead.  The lead didn’t last as the Blue Jays struck for five off of Royals ace, Bret Saberhagen to take a 5-2 lead.  Jim Sundberg hit a solo home run to make it 5-3 which is where it stood going into the bottom of the 6th.

Willie Wilson struck a single up the middle putting him on first for George Brett.  Brett was 2-for-2 with a home run in the 1st and a double and run scored in the 4th.  Brett then drove a Doyle Alexander pitch over the wall to tie the game a five apiece.

T-20.  Steve Balboni singles in George Brett to give Royals the lead.

Series:  1985 American League Championship Series – Game 3

Opponent:  Toronto Blue Jays

Venue:  Royals Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 8th

Score:  Game tied 5-5

WPA:  26%

The Royals had tied the game on George Brett’s second home run of the game he led off the bottom of the 8th.  Brett singled to right for his fourth hit of the game.  Hal McRae then sacrificed Brett to second.  Brett then took third on a groundout by Frank White.  After an intentional walk to Pat Sheridan, in stepped Royals slugger, Steve Balboni.  With runners on the corners and two out, Balboni hit a ball that dropped between three Blue Jays in center field, giving the Royals a 6-5 lead.

The Royals would hold onto that lead and cut the Blue Jays lead to 2-1.

T-20.  Alex Gordon’s double empties the bases.

Series:  2014 American League Division Series – Game 3

Opponent:  Los Angeles Angels

Venue:  Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 1st

Score:  Angels lead 1-0

WPA:  26%

The Royals were in the middle of an improbable postseason run.  They had taken down the A’s in the Wild Card and opened up with two extra-inning wins over the team with the best record in baseball.  The series shifted to Kansas City with the Royals only needing one win to advance to the ALCS.

The Angels started the scoring with a solo home run from eventual AL MVP, Mike Trout.  In the bottom of the 1st, the Royals loaded the bases on two singles and a walk.  That brought up Alex Gordon, who sent a 2-2 C.J. Wilson pitch to the wall in left-center, clearing the bases and even scoring the heavy footed Billy Butler from first base.  The Royals took a 3-1 lead and never looked back.  The Royals ended up winning by a score of 8-3 and advanced to their first ALCS since 1985.

19.  Dan Quisenberry gets Graig Nettles to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end ball game.

Series:  1980 American League Championship Series – Game 2

Opponent:  New York Yankees

Venue:  Royals Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Top of the 9th

Score:  Royals lead 3-2

WPA:  28%

The Royals had faced the Yankees in their first three postseason appearances and had lost all three.  Going into the top of the 9th, the Royals led 3-2 with already a 1-0 series lead.  Jim Frey decided to go with his closer, Dan Quisenberry, to finish off Game 2 and get the Royals within one game of their first American League Pennant.

Reggie Jackson led off the 9th with a single to left off of Royals starter, Dennis Leonard.  Quisenberry then came on to close the game out.  Quisenberry then got Oscar Gamble to pop out to Frank White.  After Rick Cerone singled to left field and brought up Yankees third baseman, Graig Nettles, with two on and one out.  Nettles, on the first pitch, grounded to Frank White who started a game ending 4-6-3 double play and sent the series to New York with the Royals leading 2-0.

T-17.  Eric Hosmer triples with one out representing the tying run.

Series:  2014 American League Wild Card Game

Opponent:  Oakland Athletics

Venue:  Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 12th

Score:  Athletics lead 8-7

WPA:  30%

The Royals and A’s were locked in an epic battle that had seen the Royals fight back from four runs down in the 8th inning against Jon Lester.  The Royals had multiple opportunities to win the game but they didn’t take advantage.  In the top of the 12th, the A’s took the lead on a single by former Royal Alberto Callaspo. 

After Lorenzo Cain grounded out, the Royals were down to their final two outs of the season.  That’s when Eric Hosmer drove a 2-2 Dan Otero pitch to left-center and off the top of the wall.  Neither A’s left fielder Jonny Gomes nor center fielder Sam Fuld couldn’t get to it.  The ball ricocheted off the top of the wall and it allowed Hosmer to get to third base, representing the tying run, with one out.

T-17.  Alcides Escobar doubles down the right field line to give the Royals a 5-4 lead.

Series:  2014 American League Championship Series – Game 2

Opponent:  Baltimore Orioles

Venue:  Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Inning:  Top of the 9th

Score:  Tied at 4-4

WPA:  30%

The Royals had swept through the first five games of the American League postseason and were deadlocked in another battle against the Orioles.  The game appeared to be headed to extra innings, something that wasn’t new to the Royals in the postseason.  That when the bottom of the Royals order stepped up.

The inning started with Omar Infante hitting an infield single.  After the single, Ned Yost pinch ran speedster Terrance Gore for Infante.  The Orioles then countered with closer Zach Britton to set up the lefty-lefty match-up against Mike Moustakas.  Moustakas laid down a sacrifice, moving Gore to second for the top of the order.  Escobar, known for swinging at the first pitch, laced one down the right field line for a RBI double and a 5-4 Royals lead.  Escobar would later score and that would give the Royals their winning margin of 6-4.  With the win, the Royals had taken the first two of the ALCS with the series shifting to Kansas City.

T-15.  Amos Otis drives in Wilson, Chalk, to give Royals the lead.

Series:  1980 World Series – Game 2

Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies

Venue:  Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

Inning:  Top of 7th

Score:  Phillies lead 2-1

WPA:  31%

The Royals were trying to shift the series to Kansas City after stealing a game in Philadelphia.  To do that, the Royals would have to beat future Hall of Famer, Steve Carlton.  The Royals went into the 7th down 2-1 when Carlton walked the bases loaded with one out.  In stepped Amos Otis, who was having a great series.  Otis then turned on a 2-2 pitch and lined it past a diving Mike Schmidt to score Willie Wilson and Dave Chalk to give the Royals a 3-2 lead.  The Royals would score one more in the inning to go up 4-2 with their closer, Dan Quisenberry coming in.

Unfortunately for the Royals, they couldn’t hold the lead.  The Phillies scored four in the 8th and won by a score of 6-4 and took a 2-0 series lead to Kansas City.

T-15.  Royals tie game on Carlos Correa’s error.

Series:  2015 American League Division Series – Game 4

Opponent:  Houston Astros

Venue:  Minute Maid Park, Houston

Inning:  Top of the 8th

Score:  Astros lead 6-4

WPA:  31%

The Royals were down to their final six outs of 2015 trailing by four.  This Royals team, however, wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

After five straight singles scored two and had the bases loaded with nobody out the Royals leading RBI guy stepped into the box.  The only thing Morales couldn’t do was hit into a double play.  However, it appeared he might.  Morales sent a 0-1 pitch back up the middle to and off the mound.  It ricocheted perfectly to Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.  The ball was leading Correa right to the bag for what appeared to be a routine 6-3 double play that looked to kill a Royals rally.  However, Correa took his eye off the ball for a split second and the ball went off his glove and into center field.  This allowed Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain to score and tie the game at six apiece.

The Royals would add one more in the 8th and two in the 9th to win the game, 9-6, and force a winner-take-all Game 5 in Kansas City.

14.  Royals tie game on Daniel Murphy’s error.

Series:  2015 World Series – Game 3

Opponent:  New York Mets

Venue:  Citi Field, Queens

Inning:  Top of the 8th

Score:  Mets lead 3-2

WPA:  32%

During the 2015 postseason the Royals mastered the art of the comeback and taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes.  That’s why, even with the team down 3-2 going into the 8th inning, Royals fans were confident they were going to win.

After Alcides Escobar grounded out, Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain followed up with walks against the Mets Tyler Clippard.  Mets manager, Terry Collins, went to his closer, Jeurys Familia, to preserve a one run lead.  He would face first baseman Eric Hosmer.  On a 0-1 pitch, Hosmer hit a chopper to Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy.  It was hit to slow to turn a double play, but, he could get Hosmer at first.  The ball, however, bounced under Murphy’s glove and into right field, allowing Zobrist to score the tying run and moving Cain to third.

The Royals would add two more runs in the inning to take a 5-3 lead that they would not relinquish.  With the win, the Royals moved with one game of clinching their first World Series title in thirty years.

T-12.  George Brett ties the game with a 3-run home run.

Series:  1976 American League Championship Series – Game 5

Opponent:  New York Yankees

Venue:  Yankee Stadium, New York

Inning:  Top of the 8th

Score:  Yankees lead 6-3

WPA:  33%

The 1976 ALCS was a back-and-forth affair between the Royals and the New York Yankees.  The Yankees won Games 1 and 3, while the Royals won Games 2 and 4.  This set up a winner-take-all Game 5 for the American League pennant and the right to face the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.

Going into the top of the 8th, the Yankees were in good position to win the series.  Starter Ed Figueroa had pitched well to this point and the Royals trailed by three runs.  Al Cowens led off the inning with a single to left field.  The Yankees then brought in Grant Jackson to face Royals pinch hitter, Jim Wohlford.  Wohlford singled to center field, moving Cowens to second for American League batting champion, George Brett.  In what would become the first of many heroics in his Hall of Fame career, Brett sent a pitch into the right field stands for a game-tying three run homer and tied the game at six apiece.

Unfortunately for the Royals, they couldn’t close the deal.  Chris Chambliss hit a walk-off solo home run in the 9th and the Yankees won the pennant in five games.

T-12.  Pat Sheridan comes up clutch as he ties the game with a solo home run.

Series:  1985 American League Championship Series – Game 2

Opponent:  Toronto Blue Jays

Venue:  Exhibition Stadium, Toronto

Inning:  Top of the 9th

Score:  Blue Jays lead 4-3

WPA:  33%

The Royals doing their best to bring the series to Kansas City with a split in Toronto after getting beat in Game 1.  They would have to do so trailing 4-3 and against Blue Jays closer, Tom Henke. 

To counter Henke, Dick Howser sent Pat Sheridan up to pinch hit for Darryl Motley and set up a righty-lefty match up.  Sheridan then proceeded to smoke a pitch over the right field wall to tie the game at four apiece and would ultimately send the game into extra innings.

T-10.  Hal McRae sends the game to extra innings.

Series:  1984 American League Championship Series – Game 2

Opponent:  Detroit Tigers

Venue:  Royals Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 8th

Score:  Tigers lead 3-2

WPA:  34%

The Royals had squeaked into the postseason in 1984 having finished 84-78 and winning the AL West.  They trailed Game 2, 3-2, and were in a must-win situation after losing Game 1.  The Royals would have to do so against the Tigers dominant closer, Willie Hernandez. 

The Royals pinch hit Lynn Jones for Pat Sheridan in the 8th.  Jones led off with a single to left.  After George Brett struck out, Dick Howser pinch hit Hal McRae for Jorge Orta.  McRae, on the first pitch he saw, doubled down the left field line to score Jones and tie the game at three apiece.

Unfortunately, this was one of the only highlights of the series for the Royals, as the Royals dropped Game 2 in extra innings and were eventually swept by the Tigers.

T-10.  Alex Gordon give Royals lead in the 10th.

Series:  2014 American League Championship Series – Game 1

Opponent:  Baltimore Orioles

Venue:  Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Inning:  Top of the 10th

Score:  Tied 5-5

WPA:  34%

Another postseason game, another extra inning game.  This game represented the fourth extra inning postseason game for the Royals in 2014.  The Orioles kept right hander Darren O’Day on to face the Royals Alex Gordon. 

Gordon led off by sending a 1-1 pitch deep into the right field stands and giving the Royals a 6-5 lead.  The Royals would add two more runs in the inning and go on and take Game 1 by a score of 8-6.

T-7.   Dan Quisenberry get Rick Cerone to line into a double play to preserve Royals lead.

Series:  1980 American League Championship Series – Game 3

Opponent:  New York Yankees

Venue:  Yankee Stadium, New York

Inning:  Bottom of the 8th

Score:  Royals lead 4-2

WPA:  35%

The Royals were six outs away from beating the hated Yankees and winning their first American League pennant in franchise history.  However, the Yankees weren’t going down without a fight.

With the Royals leading, 4-2, Royals closer Dan Quisenberry got into trouble in the bottom of the 8th.  After Bob Watson tripled to lead off the inning, both Reggie Jackson and Oscar Gamble walked to load the bases with no out.  The Yankees had the making of a huge rally to, at the very least, tie the game.  Rick Cerone stepped into the box and, on a 1-1 pitch, sent a sharp liner to U.L. Washington at short.  Washington made a brilliant play to get to the ball and catch it.  Reggie Jackson was running on the crack of the bat and Washington flipped to Frank White for the out and a double play.  Quisenberry then got the next batter to ground out and sent the game to the ninth inning with a 4-2 Royals lead.

T-7.  Frank White gives the Royals the lead in the 10th.

Series:  1985 American League Championship Series – Game 2

Opponent:  Toronto Blue Jays

Venue:  Exhibition Stadium, Toronto

Inning:  Top of the 10th

Score:  Tied 4-4

WPA:  35%

An inning after tying the game off of Blue Jays closer Tom Henke, the Royals again looked to send the series to Kansas City with a split in Toronto.

With Henke still pitching, Wilson singled to center.  After a George Brett strike out, Wilson stole second on a strike out by Hal McRae.  With two out, Frank White stepped to the plate looking to drive in Wilson.  White sent a sinking liner to center field where it appeared Lloyd Moseby may have caught the ball.  The umpires, however, ruled that the ball was trapped allowing Wilson to score and give the Royals a 5-4 lead.

However, the Royals could not hold onto the lead as they ended up giving up two runs in the bottom of the 10th and would lose 6-5 and trailing 2-0 going to Kansas City.

T-7.  Mike Moustakas hits home run to give the Royals the lead in the 11th.

Series:  2014 American League Division Series – Game 1

Opponent:  Los Angeles Angels

Venue:  Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim

Inning:  Top of the 11th

Score:  Tied 2-2

WPA:  35%

Mike Moustakas had had a horrible 2014.  At one point he was struggling so bad he was demoted to Omaha, the Royals Triple-A affiliate.  Yet, here he was up at the plate and looking to give the Royals the lead.

Moustakas led off the 11th against Angels reliever, Fernando Salas.  With the game tied at two apiece, Moustakas hit a high fly ball to right field.  The ball had just enough to get over the wall and give the Royals a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.  The Royals took the surprising 1-0 series lead and set the tone for the rest of the series.

T-5.  Willie Aikens sends Royals home happy, gives Royals first World Series win.

Series:  1980 World Series – Game 3

Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies

Venue:  Royals Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 10th

Score:  Tied 3-3

WPA:  39%

The Royals were in a must win situation.  After dropping the first two games in Philadelphia, the Royals came home to try to reclaim momentum in the series. 

Game 3 was a back-and-forth affair.  The Royals would take a lead and the Phillies would tie it in the next half inning.  However, in the 10th, the Royals looked to grab the game and momentum.  However, they would have to do so against Phillies closer, Tug McGraw.

U.L. Washington singled to left to start the inning.  After Willie Wilson walked, Washington was caught trying to steal third base.  Frank White then struck out bringing George Brett to the plate.  Wilson then stole second, which opened up first base for Tug McGraw to intentionally walk Brett.  With two out and runners on first and second, in stepped Willie Aikens, who had hit two home runs in a Game 1 loss.  Aikens would run the count to 2-1 and then he would hit a single over Phillies center fielder, Garry Maddox.  Wilson streaked home for a 4-3 Royals win.  With the win, the Royals had cut the Phillies lead to 2-1.

T-5.  Salvador Perez gives Royals their first postseason victory in twenty-nine years.

Series:  2014 American League Wild Card

Opponent:  Oakland Athletics

Venue:  Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 12th

Score:  Tied 8-8

WPA:  39%

The Royals were in a dog fight against the Oakland Athletics.  The Royals had come back from deficits of 2-0, 7-3, and 8-7 to get to this point.  This was an instant classic and the Royals wanted to end it now.

After Eric Hosmer’s triple with one out, rarely used Christian Colon singled him home to tie the game.  After Alex Gordon fouled out, Salvador Perez came to the plate carrying a 0-for-5 mark to this point.  Colon stole second on a 1-2 pitch and two pitches later, Perez lined a slider off the plate into left field, past a diving Josh Donaldson, scoring Colon and giving the Royals their first postseason win in twenty-nine years.

4.  Eric Hosmer hits 2-run shot, gives Royals a 3-1 lead.

Series:  2014 American League Division Series – Game 2

Opponent:  Los Angeles Angels

Venue:  Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim

Inning:  Top of the 11th

Score:  Tied 1-1

WPA:  43%

The Royals were locked in a pitchers dual with the Angels in Game 2 tied a one apiece.  The stakes were high with the game being as close to a must-win for the Angels are you could get.  If the Royals won, they would take a 2-0 series lead to Kansas City with a chance to win the series at home.

The Royals would have to win it off of Angels’ reliever Kevin Jepsen.  After a Jarrod Dyson fly out to center, Lorenzo Cain hit an infield single to put a runner on for Eric Hosmer.  Hosmer waited no time to launch one over the right field wall, giving the Royals a 3-1 lead.  The Royals would go on to add one more and win by a score of 4-1 and take a 2-0 lead back to Kansas City.

3.  Dane Iorg forces a Game 7.

Series:  1985 World Series – Game 6

Opponent:  St. Louis Cardinals

Venue:  Royals Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 9th

Score:  Cardinals lead 1-0

WPA:  46%

The Royals were the comeback kids.  After losing the first two games, the Royals took two of three in St. Louis to force the series back to Kansas City.  After all of that, the Royals were still looking at their final three outs of the season.  If the Royals were going to win, they would have to do it against the Cardinals hard throwing closer, Todd Worrell. 

Jorge Orta led off the 9th with an infield single (though, to be fair, umpire Don Denkinger missed the call as replay showed Orta was out).  The next hitter, Steve Balboni, had not homered in the postseason after hitting a team record thirty-six in the regular season.  Balboni would hit a foul ball towards the Royals dugout.  The Cardinals Jack Clark and Darrell Porter converged and got crossed over whose play it was.  Neither called for it and the ball landed innocently behind Clark.  On the next pitch, Balboni singled to left to put runners on first and second with no out.  Jim Sundberg attempted a sacrifice bunt, however, he hit it too hard and Worrell turned and throw Orta (the beneficiary of the Denkinger call) out at third.  Dick Howser then pinch hit Hal McRae for the light hitting Buddy Biancalana.  On a 1-0 pitch, Porter and Worrell got their signals crossed and allowed a passed ball to move the runners to second and third with one out.  The Cardinals then intentionally walked McRae to load the bases and set up the double play. 

In stepped Dane Iorg, batting for Royals closer Dan Quisenberry, with a chance to tie the game or win it.  Iorg took a pitch and then, on a 1-0 pitch, looped a ball into right field.  Concepcion, running for Balboni, scored easily to tie it.  Andy Van Slyke came up throwing with Sundberg heading home.  Sundberg slid under the Porter tag and the Royals won 2-1, forcing a winner-take-all Game 7.

2.  Alex Gordon ties it in the 9th.

Series:  2015 World Series – Game 1

Opponent:  New York Mets

Venue:  Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

Inning:  Bottom of the 9th

Score:  Mets lead 4-3

WPA:  47%

Alex Gordon had been involved in many big postseason moments in Royals history.  However, this was as big as any.

The Royals entered the 9th inning of Game 1 trailing 4-3 against Mets closer Jeurys Familia.  Familia had converted all five save opportunities for the Mets in the postseason and would be tough to get to.

After Salvador Perez grounded out to begin the 9th, in stepped Alex Gordon to face Familia.  On a 1-1 pitch, Gordon drove a ball to deep center and over the wall for a 428-foot home run.  The Royals would go on to win Game 1 and carry momentum throughout the rest of the series.

1.  George Brett’s 3-run home run gives Royals a 4-2 lead.

Series:  1980 American League Championship Series – Game 3

Opponent:  New York Yankees

Venue:  Yankee Stadium, New York

Inning:  Top of the 7th

Score:  Yankees lead 2-1

WPA:  49%

The Royals hadn’t beaten the Yankees in three ALCS.  Here they were though, up 2-0 in the series needing only one more win to advance to their first World Series.  They would have to do it in New York with the final three games being played at Yankee Stadium.

Going into the top of the 7th, the Royals trailed, 2-1, against Yankee starter, Tommy John.  After John got two quick out to begin the 7th, Willie Wilson then hit a double to right, knocking John from the game in favor of future Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage.  Gossage then allowed an infield single to U.L. Washington, setting up American League batting champion George Brett with two out and runners on the corners trailing by one.  On the first pitch Brett saw from Gossage, he sent the ball into the upper deck of the right field seats to give the Royals a 4-2 lead.

The Royals would hold onto the lead and go on to win their first American League pennant in franchise history.

That’s it for the 20 most impactful plays in Royals postseason history.  I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Until next time.

Share Button
Previous Post

Royals in Review: The Top 15 moments of 2015

The Royals won their first World Series in 30 years.  We take a look at the Top 15 moments of 2015.   What a team.  What a season.  What a relief.  Those words were spoken by Royals broadcaster, Ryan Lefebvre, shortly after Salvador Perez caught ... Read more

Next Post

Thank you, Royals!

We’ve heard a lot of fans say thank you.  I want to take a moment to say thank for something much deeper. What a magical ride!  I woke up this past Sunday and said to myself, “The Kansas City Royals…MY Royals…are World Champions”.  I imagine ... Read more

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Facebook Comments

comments

Christopher Till

Author: Christopher Till

Christopher is a lifelong Royals fan who loves long walks on the beach, sunsets, and trips to #DongTown. He also loves writing about the Royals (pants optional). Ian Kennedy once ruined a perfect game Chris had going (though, to be fair, Chris' pitch came before the game with nobody in the batter's box). His favorite Royals' memory is sitting in Section 401 with his daughter when Salvador Perez laced a line drive past Josh Donaldson to win the 2014 American League Wild Card Game.

Share This Post On