From “here we go again” to “here we go!”, the Royals and their fans rode an emotional roller coaster during Game One of the ALCS, as Kansas City overcame an early 2-0 deficit to take a 7-2 win over their longtime postseason tormentors, the New York Yankees, on a warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon at Royals Stadium.
Royals starter Larry Gura worked around a leadoff double by Willie Randolph in the first, but the Yankees got back-to-back home runs from Rick Cerone and Lou Piniella in the top of the second to take a 2-0 lead. Given the history of Yankee home runs killing the Royals in New York’s playoff victories in 1976, 1977, and 1978, Kansas City fans had every right to be nervous.
But the Royals responded in the bottom of the second, using their speed game to offset the Yankees’ power. Amos Otis led off with a single up the middle, just past Yankees starting pitcher Ron Guidry. Otis then stole second. John Wathan drew a walk. Guidry retired the next two hitters, with left fielder Lou Piniella making a diving catch on Darrell Porter’s short fly ball for the second out. Piniella came up limping but stayed in the game. With Frank White at the plate, Guidry uncorked a wild pitch that moved the runners up 90 feet (the alert and speedy Otis likely would have scored from second if the ball hadn’t rolled into the Yankees’ dugout). White lofted a short fly ball into left, and Piniella couldn’t quite get to it. Both runners scored easily, with White pulling into second as the ball bounced high off the artificial turf.
The Royals added two more in the third inning. U L Washington led off with a walk but was caught stealing. George Brett walked, and Otis hit a ground-rule double to left with two outs. After Guidry intentionally walked Wathan to set up a lefty-lefty matchup with Aikens, the first baseman (who had been 0-5 against Guidry in the regular season) made him pay with a two-run single. Guidry finished the inning but was pulled for reliever Ron Davis to start the fourth.
Gura, however, settled in and pitched a complete game, despite allowing 10 hits. He only walked one batter and struck out four, and only allowed five of those hits after the third inning. A big key for Gura was his ability to retire Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson, the AL’s co-leader in home runs, in the sort of big situations Jackson became famous for succeeding in.
The Royals’ southpaw got Jackson for the final out in the first with a man on third, got him again with one out and a man on second in the third, and once again with two outs and a runner on first in the fifth. But perhaps his best moment came in the seventh, with the Royals still ahead 4-2. With two outs, Bucky Dent and Bob Watson singled, bringing Jackson to the plate. Manager Jim Frey visited the mound while AL saves leader Dan Quisenberry warmed up in the bullpen. But Frey stuck with his starter, who got Jackson to chase two outside pitches, then pull another outside offering harmlessly to White at second. An easy throw to first ended the inning.
Kansas City opened up the game after that. Brett hit a solo home run off Davis with one out in the bottom of the seventh. In the eighth, with reliever Tom Underwood on the mound, Porter reached base when first baseman Bob Watson failed to catch Dent’s throw on what should have been the inning-ending play. White followed with a single and Wilson doubled off the center-field fence to score both runners for a 7-2 lead.
The win gave the Royals a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA198010080.shtml
Bonus YouTube video of ABC’s broadcast, featuring Al Michaels on play-by-play and Billy Martin (!) and Jim Palmer on commentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fo5W32Y5mOU. Enjoy the pregame show, awesome graphics, and even some vintage commercials.
1980 baseball news: In the NLCS, Houston evened the series at 1-1 with a 7-4 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia. The Astros scored four runs in the top of the 10th, with Jose Cruz driving in the go-ahead run and Dave Bergman adding insurance in the form of a two-run triple. The two teams would take Thursday off as the series shifted to Houston for the last three games.