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Royals finish sweep of Orioles, head to World Series

The Royals' Alcides Escobar scores in the first inning of game 4 of the ALCS Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.  Catcher Caleb Josephy lost the ball, allowing Nori Aoiki to score also. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/MCT) 1158740
The Royals' Alcides Escobar scores in the first inning of game 4 of the ALCS Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Catcher Caleb Josephy lost the ball, allowing Nori Aoiki to score also. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/MCT) 1158740
Published Oct. 16, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — James Shields led thousands of fans in a celebratory chant. Lorenzo Cain pranced along the warning track, cradling his newborn son. Ned Yost finally allowed himself to smile.

After nearly three decades spent as one of the game's laughingstocks, the Royals are again baseball royalty. They are headed to their first World Series since 1985, finishing a four-game sweep in the American League Championship Series with a 2-1 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday.

In a perfect postseason, the Royals are intent on relishing every moment.

"It's hard to explain," said Cain, whose clutch hits and dramatic catches earned him the series MVP award. "We're clicking at the right moment right now."

The Royals carry into the World Series an 11-game playoff winning streak, one shy of the major-league record. That includes their first eight games this season. Kansas City beat the Athletics in a 12-inning wild-card thriller to start things off, then swept the Angels in the Division Series.

Kansas City opens the World Series on Tuesday against the winner of the National League Championship Series between the Giants and Cardinals. Coincidentally, the Royals beat St. Louis for their only World Series title.

"It's been an amazing run," Royals outfielder Alex Gordon said. "It's nothing better than when you win. (Wednesday), same old story: good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win."

Same old story for the Orioles, too: Solid pitching, good defense and just not enough offense. They managed seven hits over the last two games against Kansas City, resulting in the first sweep of the Orioles franchise in 21 postseason series.

"You saw how close the games were," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's more a testament to what (the Royals) did. They were playing great defensively."

After holding the Orioles to three hits in Game 3, Jason Vargas and the Royals' bullpen held them to four Wednesday. Kelvin Herrera and former Ray Wade Davis got the game to Greg Holland, who matched Dennis Eckersley's record with his fourth save of the best-of-seven series.

Holland got J.J. Hardy to ground out to third for the final out, and the Royals spilled onto the infield. Fireworks shot over the crown-shaped scoreboard in centerfield, and a blue-clad sellout crowd that included Royals greats George Brett and Brett Saberhagen roared while cars on nearby Interstate 70 honked.

"That's what you dream of as a kid," Holland said. "Punch your ticket to the World Series, especially before your home crowd. These fans have been waiting a long time. They deserve it."