The Kansas City Royals won the American League Championship Series Wednesday afternoon, setting up their first trip to the World Series since 1985.

The Royals have yet to lose in the postseason, sweeping first the Los Angeles Angels and now the Baltimore Orioles. That makes them the first team to start baseball’s postseason with eight consecutive wins, according to Kansas City began the streak by winning the Wild Card Game in dramatic fashion against the Athletics, with late-inning heroics to tie it up before an 11th-inning walk-off. That set up their division series against the Angels, who they dispatched in short order.

The win Wednesday means the Royals will play either the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Giants currently have a 2-1 lead in the National League Championship Series, but a Cardinals comeback would turn this year’s Fall Classic into a rematch of the 1985 series between the Missouri rivals.

The Royals won that showdown – dubbed the “Show-Me Series” – four games to three, but haven’t been back to the playoffs since. In fact, that World Series was so long ago that it marked the first time baseball’s grand finale featured an all-night schedule.

This year’s run is due largely to a stellar defense and tong relief pitching. Strong enough to keep the Orioles, who finished with the second-best record in the AL, from mounting a comeback.

That kind of success has led to some lofty praise, with Time‘s Sean Gregory proclaiming that “the Kansas City Royals are the future of baseball.”

Royals’ starter Jason Vargas and his bullpen gave up just four hits before closer Greg Holland notched his fourth straight save in front of a crowd of 40,468.

The Orioles finished the season with 96 wins and were considered a strong World Series contender. But like their Mid-Atlantic rivals in the National League, the Washington Nationals, they ended up squandering that regular season advantage. According to ESPN, Wednesday’s loss also meant that Baltimore suffered its first postseason sweep in 21 series.

The Kansas City Royals will host Game One of the World Series against the winner of the National League pennant next Tuesday at Kaufmann Stadium.

[photo credit: Keith Allison]