Kansas City Royals: 5-year anniversary of The Wild Card Game
By Shawn Bauman
Salvador Perez reached for a pitch and poked it down the third base line for the win.
Sean Doolittle is summoned to close out the game for Oakland and looking at his performance that year it would be easy to pencil in the save. His 0.734 WHIP blew Holland’s out of the water and he created whiffs at a high rate as well, mowing down 89 batters in 62 2/3 innings.
Josh Willingham begins the frame with a single and Jarrod Dyson immediately pinch runs for him. Escobar executes a bunt putting Dyson in scoring position and showing no fear he steals third base. The tying run is now 90 feet away and only one out. Aoki gets a ball deep enough into the outfield to score Dyson and we are now even at 7 runs apiece. The ultimate manufacturing of a run with one hit, a bunt, a steal and sac fly.
A legendary move was the inclusion of Brandon Finnegan to the postseason roster. Having pitched for Texas Christian University in the College World Series, Finnegan only played in 13 games that summer before joining Kansas City for seven innings of work late in the year. He is the first player to play in the CWS and Major League playoffs in the same year. Taking the hill like a poised veteran, Finnegan sits down the A’s in order in the 10th.
Doolittle stays in the game and Hosmer makes it to third with two outs and the stadium is ready to blast off to the moon. However, Salvador Perez grounds out to second as Doolittle gets himself out of a jam. Finnegan picks up a couple of strikeouts in the 11th and outside of a single to Josh Donaldson no damage is done. Dan Otero was a great setup man in ’14 and he is called upon to keep the Royals off the scoreboard in their half of the inning. Omar Infante has the honor of being the Kansas City hitter to end up on third with two outs but Jayson Nix cannot end the game as he strikes out.
After a walk and sacrifice puts Josh Reddick at 2nd, the Royals bring Jason Frasor out of the pen. A mid-season trade with the Texas Rangers put Frasor on the Royals roster and he pitched extremely well in 23 appearances. Sadly though, a wild pitch and single by Alberto Callaspo scores Reddick and the Royals are now down 8-7.
Otero stays on and retires Cain with a ground out to the first basemen. Hosmer steps up and drives a ball to the opposite field. The A’s outfielders both jump for it but the ball hits off the top of the wall and with both men down after their efforts, Eric is able to speed around to third base putting the tying run 90 feet away. Keep in mind that Hosmer had hit one triple the entire season.
Now steps to the plate Christian Colon. He bounces a 1-0 pitch off the front of the plate and the hang time allows Hosmer to score and Colon to reach safely as we are now tied. Hosmer’s energy on the triple and sliding home is contagious and even on video you can feel the stadium rocking.
Colon now steals second, making the seventh swipe of the game for the Boys in Blue. This was key because prior to that, Alex Gordon popped out foul to third base. Jason Hammel enters the game with Perez at the plate. Hammel was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs that year and was strictly a starting pitcher. With a one-game playoff though, you use all hands on deck.
What follows next is a clip that will forever be part of the Royals’ lore. Perez has a 2-2 count and a pitch that looked like it was in the left-handed hitter’s box is pulled down the left-field line allowing Colon to race home and win the game. What a moment for Kansas City fans to cherish and what maturity from those young players never quitting. What followed next was another seven straight playoff victories before finally succumbing to the San Francisco Giants in seven games of the World Series.
While the next year would certify Kansas City as the best in the world, it is questionable if they would have had the confidence to get there without rallying to win this game. They needed a huge comeback against Houston in the 2015 ALDS to keep that series alive and the experience from the prior year gave them to courage to believe they could accomplish anything.