This Date In Royals History–1980 Edition: October 9

The Royals moved to within one game of the World Series with a scintillating 3-2 win over the Yankees in Game Two of the ALCS, on a pleasant Thursday night at Royals Stadium.

Kansas City scored three runs in the third inning, then barely held on for the win thanks to some terrific defensive plays in the late innings.

Facing New York starter Rudy May, Darrell Porter started the third-inning rally with Kansas City’s first hit, a single to right field. Frank White followed with a single. Willie Wilson slapped a grounder up the right-field line, bringing in both runners while Wilson sped to third with a triple. U L Washington doubled to give the Royals a 3-0 lead.

Royals starter Dennis Leonard held the Yankees scoreless on two hits through the first four innings, but New York rallied in the fifth. With one out, Graig Nettles hit a fly ball to deep right field that just eluded John Wathan’s glove and bounced back toward center field. By the time Amos Otis tracked it down and fired back to the infield, Nettles was rounding third and he barely beat the throw to the plate. The inside-the-park home run, the first in ALCS history, cut the Royals’ lead to 3-1. With two outs, Bobby Brown drew a walk. Willie Randolph hit a fly ball into right-center field. Wathan got to it, but failed to make a basket catch. The play was scored a double, with Brown scoring to bring New York within one run.

Leonard retired eight straight after that, with Randolph breaking the string with a one-out single in the eighth. With two outs, Bob Watson drilled a Leonard offering down the left-field line. Wilson was on it quickly and got a good carom off the wall, but his throw back to the infield soared over shortstop Washington’s head. Third baseman George Brett snared it, turned, and fired a strike to Porter at the plate. The throw beat Randolph home by several feet, and Porter slapped a tag on the runner to end the inning. The play had required the Royals to handle the ball well, and they did. Randolph had been nearly to third when Wilson launched his throw. However, the Yankees could have had runners at second and third with Reggie Jackson at the plate. The play was second-guessed by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (who was seen on the ABC broadcast yelling right after the play) after the game.

To make matters worse for third-base coach Mike Ferraro, Jackson began the ninth with a single. The Royals summoned closer Dan Quisenberry, who got Oscar Gamble on a popup. But Rick Cerone singled, moving Jackson to second. Nettles hit a sharp grounder to White at second, but he had trouble getting it out of his glove for a split-second. White threw a strike to Washington at second, and the shortstop fired to first for a game-ending double play.

The win gave Kansas City a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, but the Royals would need to win one game in New York to advance to the World Series. It was the first time in the teams’ four playoff meetings that one team had won the first two games. Royals fans were excited, but couldn’t forget the 1977 series, when KC took a 2-1 lead and had two chances to close it out at home but failed.

Box score and play-by-play:

Bonus YouTube video: This is the WPIX-TV Yankees broadcast. Sorry about that.

Today’s birthday: Freddie Patek (1944)

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