KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lorenzo Cain capped the AL Championship Series with his best catch yet: an MVP trophy.
The smooth center fielder snagged MVP honors after helping the Kansas City Royals to a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 2-1 victory Wednesday.
Along with making a series of splendid defensive plays, Cain batted .533 in the series and scored five runs. He had eight hits, matching the franchise record for an ALCS set by Willie Wilson — who also wore No. 6 and roamed center field — in 1985 against Toronto.
“Unbelievable feeling,” Cain said. “I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.”
Indeed, what a month it’s been for Cain, who went home to Oklahoma between playoff series to be with his wife, Jenny, for the birth of their first child, Cameron Loe.
Cain rejoined the team in plenty of time to torment the Orioles all week, and held his newborn son, dressed warmly in a baseball-styled stocking cap, on the Kauffman Stadium warning track during the victory celebration that followed Game 4.
“I told him, a player that’s had setbacks with injuries and frustrations, the way he’s dedicated himself in the offseason and persevered, I’m proud of him,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “He keeps giving great effort.”
Cain matched a Royals record with four hits in Game 2 on Saturday, and scored their first run in Game 3 on Tuesday night. He also laid down a key sacrifice bunt — the first of his career — that helped Kansas City take a 2-0 lead in the first inning Wednesday.
He had two doubles, two walks and the team’s only stolen base in the series. After hitting only five homers during the regular season, he slugged .667 with a .588 on-base percentage.
“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes. Get on base — whatever it takes to find a way to help this team win ballgames,” Cain said. “I’m just going to try to continue to do that throughout the World Series, as well.”
The 28-year-old Cain did not play organized baseball until sophomore year in high school. Cut from the basketball team, the talented athlete showed up without any equipment and didn’t even know the rules or how to hold a bat.
He was drafted in the 17th round by Milwaukee in 2004 out of Tallahassee Community College and traded to the Royals in December 2010 along with shortstop Alcides Escobar and two pitching prospects for ace Zack Greinke and infielder Yuniesky Betancourt.
“Definitely started playing a lot later than a lot of guys on our team — or anybody,” Cain said. “But I was determined to be a great ballplayer. And a lot of hard work, a lot of great coaches and family also to push me to be the player that I’m becoming. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Now, he’s a huge reason the Royals are 8-0 this postseason. They’re headed back to the World Series for the first time since rallying to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, the last time Kansas City even reached the playoffs.
“We’re just clicking at the right moment now,” Cain said.
It took time for Cain to establish himself as a productive major leaguer, and once in a while he still looks raw. But he blossomed this season with a .301 batting average and 28 stolen bases in 133 games, inspiring enough confidence to become the club’s regular No. 3 hitter.
And with his all-around performance against Baltimore, Cain joined Hall of Famer George Brett (1985) and All-Star second baseman Frank White (1980) as the only Kansas City players to be chosen MVP of the ALCS.
Pretty royal company.