Sep 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielder Justin Maxwell (27) hits a walk off grand slam against the Texas Rangers during the 10th inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals beat the Rangers 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
When the Royals acquired Justin Maxwell at the trade deadline, a number of people asked “who?”. A number asked “why?”
After Sunday, I think a lot more people will know Maxwell’s name.
With the bases loaded, a full count, and two outs in the bottom of the tenth, Maxwell crushed – I mean it-may-not-have-landed-yet crushed – a pitch from former Royals Joakim Soria to left field to drive in all four runs in the Royals 4-0 walkoff win.
He stood to admire the shot for a moment – seriously, I’m not sure it’s landed yet – before running the bases, flipping his bat, spiking his helmet, and getting mobbed at the plate by his teammates. As he tried to answer questions from Joel Goldberg, he was twice attacked with shaving cream pies, and twice doused with coolers full of Gatorade. He asked “how many coolers do we have?” after the second shower.
The Royals got five hits all day, but three came in the bottom of the tenth. Eric Hosmer led off with a double down the left field line. Soria came into the game and intentionally walked Billy Butler, who then gave way to Chris Getz as a pinch runner. Salvador Perez singled to shortstop Elvis Andrus (at least, it was scored that way) but tried to get an out at second. Getz beat the throw. Mike Moustakas popped up to third and pinch-hitter George Kottaras reached on a fielder’s choice, but Hosmer was out at home.
Then Maxwell came up. He worked the count full, then Soria left a ball up and on the inner half. And – I can’t stress this enough – Maxwell destroyed it.
Here, just watch:
The crowd at Kauffman Stadium stayed in their seats for the duration of his post-game interview on the field, celebrating the final home game of the season and a win that gives the Royals 82 this year, the most since 2003 and a guarantee that they’ll finish above .500 in 2013.
James Shields battled through eight innings. He was hit by a David Murphy line drive in the top of the third, but got the out. The ball hit his right elbow, but after a few warmup tosses to test it, he stayed in the game. He allowed only six hits and one walk all day in holding the Rangers scoreless. Greg Holland threw a scoreless inning in the ninth but caught a break in the form of an Alex Rios baserunning mistake. Rios struck out to lead off the inning but the ball bounced past Perez and Rios ended up on first. Then, he ran on Perez and the throw had him beat, but Emilio Bonifacio wasn’t lined up well enough to get the tag on him.
Then Adrian Beltre lefted a fly ball to left field. It carried to just in front of the warning track where Alex Gordon caught it. Rios tagged and took off for third. Gordon, who has more outfield assists this year than anyone in the American League (and more than anyone in baseball since he moved to the outfield full time), got the throw to third base well ahead of Rios and Moustakas finished the double play.
Now, for as exciting a win as that was, the Royals need a lot of help from the baseball gods to do anything with this win. They trail both Tampa Bay and Cleveland by four wins, so if Kansas City wins the last seven games of the season, they need either or both of those teams to finish the year with just two wins. Cleveland plays Chicago for two games starting Tuesday, then finish with four against the Twins. The Rays play one more against Baltimore, then have three against the Yankees and three in Toronto.