Mike Moustakas had the game-winning hit for the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the hometown LosAngeles Angels, a solo home run in the top of the 11th inning, but teammate NoriAoki gets credit for two potentially game-save catches.
No one knows if the resilient Royals would have fought back to tie or win Thursday night’s game had Aoki not come up big with the glove in the sixth and seventh innings.
What we do know is he helped Kansas City force extra innings for the second time in three evenings, each time pulling out a huge victory. On Tuesday, the Royals beat Oakland 9-8 in 12 innings in the AL wild-card game.
In the sixth inning Thursday, Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick was at the plate with runners on first and second base. He connected off Royals starter Jason Vargas and sent a fly ball to the fence in right-centre field where Aoki made a sensational back-handed grab with centre-fielder Lorenzo Cain by his side to save two runs with the game tied 2-2 (click above to watch video).
Los Angeles threatened again in the seventh. After Angels third baseman David Freese drew a leadoff walk from Kansas City relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera, Gordon Beckham was inserted as a pinch-runner advanced to third base on an Erick Aybar sacrifice bunt and Josh Hamilton groundout.
Right-handed hitting designated hitter C.J. Cron stepped up to the plate and promptly drilled a Wade Davis offering to the warning track in right. Aoki appeared to lose sighting of the ball before recovering and racing to his left to make the catch and end the inning to keep the game even.
Have a look here:
It stayed that way until the top of the 11th when Moustakas belted a pitch from Angels reliever Fernando Salas that cleared the fence in right for his first homer since Aug. 25, a span of 33 games.