Tonight, the champagne is on ice. The goggles and plastic sheeting are ready to be used. Cameramen, reporters and television personalities are already making plans to bring their clothes to the dry cleaners. A Gatorade bucket is being prepared for Salvador Perez to dump on whoever the key player is tonight. The fans of the Kansas City Royals are ready to celebrate and turn Kauffman Stadium into a a gigantic party, as they could watch the team clinch their first American League Central title tonight.
Perhaps it is fitting that Johnny Cueto will be on the mound tonight. Just as the Royals have stumbled down the stretch, so too has Cueto. Yet, his outing on Friday, where he allowed only two runs while pitching into the eighth inning, is a reason for hope.
These are the types of games that Cueto was acquired for. He was to be that staff ace that the Royals lacked last season, the stopper who could single handedly change the complexion of a postseason series. Now, with the Royals having a chance to clinch their first division title in thirty years, Cueto could be the pitcher earning that decisive victory.
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Of course, it is not a given that the champagne will be flowing in the Kansas City Royals clubhouse tonight. While their magic number is down to two, that does mean that the Minnesota Twins have to lose to the Cleveland Indians. As such, that celebration, and the Royals first AL Central title, could be moved back another day or two, pending the outcome of the games.
And yet, there may be a reason to celebrate aside from that division crown. In locking up the division, the Royals, how have seemed tight and tentative lately, may finally be able to relax and get back to playing their brand of baseball. Instead of the pressure of bringing home that title, the Royals would know that their postseason ticket has been punched, and that they can take care of the unfinished business from last season.
Tonight may be a reason to celebrate for the Kansas City Royals, as they may very well clinch their first division title since that magical 1985 season. Yet, there may well be a reason for celebration that goes beyond the raising of another banner, as this could be the beginning of the Royals getting back to being that team they were over the first four months of the season.