- Associated Press - Saturday, October 4, 2014

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels spent six months constructing the most productive offense, the most daunting home-field advantage and the best record in baseball.

None of it has mattered a bit during two losses to the cardiac Kansas City Royals, who have put the Angels are on the brink of elimination with two splendidly pitched games capped by 11th-inning homers over the right-field wall at somber Angel Stadium.

Eric Hosmer hit a two-run shot in the 11th, and Kansas City took a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series with a 4-1 victory over the Angels on Friday night.

Pujols had a tying RBI single in the sixth for the Angels, but they’ve been mostly helpless against a Kansas City pitching staff that has held their star-studded lineup to three runs in 22 innings. Los Angeles, which led the big leagues with 98 wins, has just 10 hits in the series - none by Trout or Josh Hamilton.

“This series is not over,” said Pujols, who is 1 for 8. “Obviously, you don’t want to go down 0-2 and go to the other place, but anything can happen. Hopefully our bats get going. … We just need to catch some breaks. If we do, we’ll be fine.”

Going back to the regular season, the Angels have lost five straight games for the first time all season. After another lethargic offensive effort wasted a stellar start by Matt Shoemaker and some gutsy relief pitching, they’re down to their last chance to turn it around.

Game 3 in the best-of-five series is Sunday in Kansas City, where Los Angeles left-hander C.J. Wilson faces James Shields.

The Royals finished last in the majors with only 95 regular-season homers, but they’ve won back-to-back playoff games with one big swing.

After 10 innings of intense baseball dominated by pitching and defense, Lorenzo Cain beat out a one-out infield single off loser Kevin Jepsen. Hosmer smacked a no-doubt homer to right field, setting off a celebration for several dozen blue-clad Royals fans in a sea of red at the Big A.

Trout got a chance to help in the 11th after second baseman Omar Infante made a throwing error on Kole Calhoun’s two-out grounder. But the AL MVP favorite struck out against Greg Holland, finishing his second straight 0-for-4 night in his first playoff series.

“We’re having good at-bats,” Trout said. “We’re just missing some pitches, but we’ve got to turn the page. … We can’t go out Sunday and play tight. We’ve got to be loose and just leave it all out on the line. They’ve got a great staff over there. They’re getting big hits and we aren’t.”

Indeed, Trout’s 0-for-8 performance isn’t as bad as Josh Hamilton’s 0-for-9 effort in his return from injury. Cleanup hitter Howie Kendrick is 1 for 9, Erick Aybar is 1 for 7, and designated hitter C.J. Cron is 1 for 6.

“There are some guys that right now aren’t attacking the ball where they can for various reasons. There is not one cure-all that’s going to get everybody swinging the bat,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We haven’t done a lot of the things we’ve done during the season, and we put a lot of pressure on our pitching staff.”

Only eight teams in major league history have rallied to win a playoff series after losing the first two games.

Alex Gordon had an early run-scoring single and Salvador Perez added an RBI infield single in the 11th for the Royals, who became the first team in major league history to win three straight extra-inning playoff games. In its first postseason appearance since 1985, Kansas City is on a playoff roll.

“That’s what the cool part of this has been - everyone has had their time,” said Hosmer, who had three hits and scored two runs. “They’ve had their moment when they’ve made a big play or stepped up and did something big. A lot of the times, it was with our back against the wall. Most of the time it was with our season on the line.”

Brandon Finnegan pitched a hitless 10th for the Royals, and the 2014 first-round draft pick earned the win. Holland worked the 11th for his second save of the series.

In a matchup of impressive rookie starters, Yordano Ventura pitched seven innings of five-hit ball for the Royals, and Shoemaker threw six innings of five-hit ball for Los Angeles.


Royals: RHP Kelvin Herrera has a flexor strain in his right forearm after throwing just five pitches in Game 1. The reliever will be re-evaluated when the teams get to Kansas City.

Angels: Hamilton went 0 for 4 with a double-play grounder to end the 10th, remaining hitless in his first playoff series with Los Angeles. The slugger played just once in the final 22 games of the regular season due to upper-body injuries.


Shields started the Royals’ wild-card playoff win Tuesday, so he’ll be on normal rest. Los Angeles is hoping for solid work from the up-and-down Wilson.



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