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Royals are winning with style, take 2-0 series lead over Angels

Royals are winning with style, take 2-0 series lead over Angels
Kansas City's Yordano Ventura gave up one earned run on five hits over seven innings while striking out five batters in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Angel Stadium. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

When Yordano Ventura's night was over, he took off his cap, put on a puffy Kansas City Royals jacket and was found by James Shields in the dugout.

This time, when Shields wrapped Ventura in a hug and spoke in his ear, Ventura wouldn't need consoling. Three nights earlier, in Kansas City, the 22-year-old pitched in a rare relief spot and promptly imploded.

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On Friday, though, he had thrown seven masterful innings, struck out five and given up one earned run. He again imposed the Royals' style in another low-scoring game, a 4-1 win in Game 2 in the American League division series.

"Wow, I mean, what a job he did," said Royals Manager Ned Yost.

With the Angels' offense sputtering against Ventura and the Kansas City bullpen, they were forced to play the Royals' game. And they are not built to win that way.

Kansas City ended up with a two-game lead. Teams that fall behind 0-2 in the AL division series have lost 13 straight.

The Royals have made up for a 29-year postseason drought with plenty of extra baseball.

All three of their postseason games have gone into extra innings, which favors their speedy bench, deep bullpen and apparent knack for late home runs — this time a two-run shot from Eric Hosmer won the game.

They are the first team to win three straight extra-inning postseason games.

Ventura shut down the Angels' best hitters. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton are now a combined two for 34 with one run batted in and eight strikeouts for the series.

That forced them to find other ways to score. In Game 1, they tried out-bunting the Royals even though they had laid down just 26 sacrifice bunts in the regular season. All three failed to create a run.

The Royals showed how to do it. In the third inning of Game 2, Mike Moustakas bunted with the shift on for the easiest base hit of the game.

The Royals' hard baserunning helped to break up double plays, leg out infield hits and force throwing errors.

"These low-scoring games, our speed's going to come to play," Jarrod Dyson said. "That's how it's been, that's how it's going to be. We don't look for the long ball, we look to steal a run. And tonight we got the long ball, and we'll take it."

The Angels tried running too, but Trout was thrown out easily in the first inning, and the Angels wouldn't attempt another steal.

On defense, the Angels don't compare. A Kole Calhoun error in the first inning led to the Royals' first run. Meanwhile, in a crucial spot in the eighth inning, Dyson, a Royals defensive replacement in center field, mowed down pinch-runner Collin Cowgill trying to tag from second and advance a base.

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Typically, little of this would matter. The Angels can win by brute force.

If the Angels' offense were clicking, all those Royals highlights — the defensive stops, the baserunning mastery — would be pointless. But with runs at a premium, thanks to Ventura, speed and defense have swayed both outcomes in this series.

Now, Shields will pitch Game 3 with a chance to sweep, the Royals' best pitcher in their biggest game.

A half-hour after the game was over, Royals fans lingered behind the dugout chanting, "Let's go Royals!" and "Eric Hosmer!" to an empty stadium.

Inside the clubhouse, Hosmer, Shields and the rest of the team were packing up for home.

"There's a bunch of guys in here that believe we can do it," Hosmer said. "And it's a lot of fun when you're playing with guys like that."

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