Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Then it was fall hardball season. In the admittedly short sample size we have, fall hardball for this family of Royals players is like watching a Hallmark special with the most sentimental of Spielbergian elements blended with the most unrealistic of Michael Bay’s inclinations.
But that isn’t quite enough. Now, base the screenplay on notes taken from a focus group composed of hardcore 8-year-old Royals fans. Okay: “Lights! Camera! Action!”
Seriously. These players invited Royals Nation on board an improbable and fantastical ride that went from subterranean to stratospheric in what felt like a nanosecond. Last year’s Wild Card game – followed by a complete sweep into the World Series – sent us all on a suborbital trip. We … just … barely … missed … the target. This year’s postseason, however, rocketed us into another dimension. Consider some of the emotional turns, plot twists and ridiculous story lines we witnessed:
- ALDS: Houston Astros v KC Royals. Kansas City was the the first home team to win in the 2015 postseason, when they took Game Two against the Astros. The Royals were three runs down at one point in the game, finally taking a 5-4 lead in the seventh before turning it over to their bullying bullpen. In Game Four, on the verge of seeing their season end, the Royals were down 6-2 as they headed into the top of the 8th. An error by Carlos Correa was all they needed, turning a nick into a cut into a wound that the opponent couldn’t staunch. It was simply a bunch of singles strung together … something we’d see a lot of in the Royals postseason wins. Eric Hosmer provided insurance with a two-run homer in the 9th. Then, in the the fifth and deciding game of the series, back at The K, Johnny Cueto (who at times with the Royals, looked as out of place on the mound as a Cardinal at a World Series rally) pitched a gem, giving up two runs in 8 innings – retiring the final 19 batters he faced.
- ALCS: Toronto Blue Jays v KC Royals. Edinson Volquez hurled a beauty in Game One, allowing 2 hits and no runs through six innings. Throughout the postseason, Steady Eddie somehow found a little extra heat on his fastballs – hitting 97, after topping out most of the year in the low-to-mid 90s. With a lot of movement on his pitches, he just looked nasty. In Game Two, the Royals were down 3-0 when they came to bat in the 7th. (It could have been a much larger deficit if Luke Hochevar hadn’t worked some serious mojo in the 6th inning. Relieving Yordano Ventura, Hoche came into the game with the bases loaded and just one out. He didn’t give up a run.) What should have been a routine fly ball first-out out by Ben Zobrist dropped, as the Ghost of 1985 (or a loud-voiced Royals fan) shouted, “I got it!” at Ryan Goins, who backed off at the last second, allowing the ball to fall in between him and Jose Bautista. That was all the Royals needed to begin bringing down the mighty David Price, who had retired the previous 18 Royals. Great base-running, excellent at-bats and a bunch of singles plus a double later, the Royals led 5-3. And let us remember Game Six: the one that clenched KC’s second straight World Series berth. (Did I just write that? And it’s true?) Wade Davis came in to get the final two outs of the 8th, after the Jays managed to score two runs and tie the game. Following a 41-minute rain delay, Cain scored from first on a single by Eric Hosmer (and a Bautista miscue/Jirschele insight), giving the Royals a 4-3 lead. An hour after throwing his last pitch, Davis returned to the mound and shut down the Jays to secure a 4-games-to-2 win.
- World Series: New York Mets v KCRoyals. Again, we start at the beginning. Literally. First pitch of the 2015 Fall Classic. Alcides “Strange Magic” Escobar hits the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series since a guy named Mule Haas did it in 1929. Alex Gordon tied the game in the bottom of the 9th, after Eric Hosmer committed an error that gave the Mets a one-run lead. Volquez learned of his father’s death after pitching six solid innings. The Royals won 5-4 in 14 innings. The game took more than five hours to play and was the longest Game One in World Series history. The win came after midnight, meaning KC became the first team to win two World Series games in one day. Cueto hurled a complete game in the second match, giving up one run and two hits, securing the Royals a 7-1 victory. The Mets bats came to life against Ventura when the Fall Classic moved to New York for Game Three. “Ace” gave up two, 2-run homers before leaving the game after 3.1 innings. The Royals actually hung around in this one, until Franklin Morales gave up 4 runs in the 6th inning. Neither team scored after that. Final: 9-3. In Game Four, Chris Young and the bullpen strung together a great pitching performance. Still, the Mets led this one until the 8th inning, when the Royal Blue mojo kicked in. The Mets’ Daniel Murphy, who’d been a Gotham City Superman in the NLDS and NLCS, committed an error on a routine grounder. The Royals seized the opportunity to tie, then took the lead a batter later. The 5-3 win marked the seventh come-from-behind victory for KC in the 2015 postseason, leaving them one W away from their first World Series title – 30 years after their last (and only other) one.
Next: One final game to go