KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Left-hander Brandon Finnegan, his face and clothes and hair drenched with champagne, surveyed the Royals’ clubhouse and said simply, “You know, I could get used to this.”
Never in a million years would Finnegan have guessed he would be in this position, celebrating the Royals’ first postseason win since 1985, a heart-pounding, 9-8 stunner on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Just a few months ago, Finnegan, 21, was at TCU trying to mow down college hitters from schools like Dartmouth and UT Pan American. Now he’s pitching in the wild-card playoff round for a Royals’ team that hadn’t been in the playoffs since 1985.
In extra innings no less. In front of 40,502 fans screaming at the top of their lungs.
“I’ve never been anywhere that loud in my life!” Finnegan shouted amid the celebration. “Incredible.”
Finnegan, drafted in the first round by the Royals in June, came into Tuesday’s game in the 10th inning with the score tied.
Finnegan promptly retired the first five hitters he faced before allowing a single to Josh Donaldson. That brought up Brandon Moss, who already had homered twice, a two-run bomb in the first off James Shields and a three-run shot off another rookie, Yordano Ventura, in the sixth.
“I really wasn’t nervous,” Finnegan said. “I mean, it’s not like I sat there thinking, ‘Oh, this guy has hit some bombs. What do I do?’ “
Finnegan worked the count to 2-2 then snapped a 95-MPH fastball on the black of the outside corner for a called strike three past a stunned Moss.
“Yeah, that felt pretty good,” Finnegan said. “I can’t really describe it. Awesome?”
Finnegan allowed a walk in the 12th before being pulled by manager Ned Yost.
“What he did was phenomenal,” Yost said.
Even A’s manager Bob Melvin was shaking his head about Finnegan’s stuff and composure.
“For a rookie to come in there in that situation and keep them in the game,” Melvin said, “that’s pretty impressive. I had never seen him before.”
Chances are, though, Finnegan will be seen again in the playoffs as the Royals advance to the ALDS on Thursday against the Angels.