KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Royals are off to the division series. Kansas City rallies to force extras before ousting the Oakland Athletics 9-8 in the 12th of the AL wild-card game. They get the Angels next.

The Athletics and Royals were tied 7-7 after 11 innings Tuesday night in a dramatic AL wild-card game which was  quite a start to October baseball – even though this one appeared to be over in September.

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The A’s raced out to a 7-3 lead by the sixth inning, but the Royals countered with three runs in the eighth. Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly off Sean Doolittle in the ninth forced extra innings.

Kansas City, appearing in its first playoff game in 29 years, had a chance to score the winning run in the 10th. Salvador Perez grounded out with Eric Hosmer on third base to end the inning.

The A’s were trying to avoid an epic late-inning meltdown that in some ways mirrored a second-half collapse that forced them to claw their way into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.

The winner advances to play the Angels in the AL Division Series starting Thursday.

A much-anticipated pitching showdown between Oakland ace Jon Lester and Kansas City counterpart James Shields turned into a high-scoring game.

The A’s showed off their power, while the Royals used their speed.

Brandon Moss helped the A’s strike first, belting a two-run homer in the first inning and a three-run shot in the fifth. The Royals countered by playing small ball, stealing six bases and clawing back from a four-run deficit over the final two innings.

The impassioned play by a scrappy bunch of Royals that have rarely tasted success energized a sellout crowd that had been pining for postseason baseball since the 1985 World Series.

Then again, maybe it was the crowd that energized the Royals.

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Oakland had built a 7-3 lead after the fifth, and Lester – long a thorn in Kansas City’s side – had started to hit his stride. But A’s manager Bob Melvin opted to send him out for the eighth inning, and the Royals finally got Lester into a real jam.

Luke Gregerson entered in relief but failed to provide much. By the time he struck out Salvador Perez and Omar Infante to leave runners on second and third, the four-run lead was down to one.

Sean Doolittle tried to finish the game off in the ninth, but he gave up a bloop single to pinch-hitter Josh Willingham. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson was sacrificed to second and then brashly stole third, allowing him to score on Aoki’s sacrifice fly to deep right field.

It was the third time in the last three seasons that Doolittle has blown a postseason save.

By that point, a series of blunders by the Royals and manager Ned Yost had become moot.

The first occurred in the first inning, when slow-footed designated hitter Billy Butler was caught wandering off first base on an attempted steal with a runner on third. Eric Hosmer broke late for the plate and was thrown out easily to end the inning.

In the sixth, Yost yanked Shields – the ace of his staff – and called on Yordano Ventura. The rookie promptly served up Moss’ go-ahead, three-run homer.
 

 

 

 

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