How Justin Maxwell helped turn the KC Royals around

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

When the KC Royals arrived at the 2013 All-Star Break with a record of 43-49, it was seen as another disappointing effort for them. They were close, but not close enough, and their five straight losses going into the Break didn’t help matters. But when a nine-game winning streak put them at a respectable 54-51 Aug. 1, murmurs began that things could potentially be different for the first time in a decade.

Did fans dare hope their team could have its first winning season since 2003 and grab a spot in the postseason?

By Sept. 22, the Royals were 81-73 and assured of no worse than a .500 season. And with eight games to go, the question became simple: Could Kansas City manage to break above that .500 mark?

The answer was Yes, and how it happened was truly unforgettable.

A game for the KC Royals and their fans to fondly remember started quietly.

The Sept. 22 contest between Kansas City and Texas was a pitchers’ duel. Entering the game, Texas starter Alexi Ogando was 7-4 with a 3.15 ERA, while KC’s James Shields was 12-9 with a 3.33 ERA.

Ogando had little trouble with the Royals, lasting seven scoreless innings and allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out five before Tanner Scheppers took over in the eighth. Shields gave up six hits but held the Rangers scoreless through eight.

Neither club scored in the ninth, forcing the scoreless game into extra innings. Kansas City reliever Tim Collins made quick work of Texas in the 10th by retiring the side in order.

Then came the bottom of the frame.

Eric Hosmer led off with a double off Neal Cotts. Former KC closer Joakim Soria quickly replaced Cotts and intentionally walked Billy Butler before giving up a single to Salvador Perez.

With Hosmer at third, Chris Getz (who pinch ran for Butler) at second and Perez at first, Soria was in a jam. Meanwhile, the Royals were hoping for one knock to pull them through not only the game, but a decade of mediocrity and heartache.

Uncertainty loomed, though, when Mike Moustakas popped out and Hosmer was forced at the plate on a grounder by George Kottaras. But the play left the bases loaded with Getz at third, Perez at second and Kottaras at first with Justin Maxwell coming to the plate.

Outfielder Justin Maxwell comes through for the KC Royals in the 10th.

Justin Maxwell was a relative newcomer to the Royals, acquired in a July 31 trade with the Astros. He came into the game with the Rangers—just his sixth start in September— hitting .292 with four homers and 13 RBIs since becoming a Royal.

He came to the plate in the 10th owning a single for the day, which together with Butler’s single accounted for the only two hits the Royals had managed through the first nine innings.

Maxwell made up for Kansas City’s dismal showing at the plate. After a heated six-pitch battle with Soria, Maxwell made a lasting imprint on Kansas City baseball for that season and, perhaps, for years to come:

The grand slam capped off the day, a 4-0 KC win, the 2013 home season, and gave the Royals their first winning campaign since 2003. While the Royals were sadly eliminated from postseason contention a few days later, Maxwell’s walk-off slam likely had a hand in sparking the comeback mentality of the 2014-2015 Royals teams.

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Back in 2013, Justin Maxwell hit a memorable grand slam that gave the Royals their first winning season in a decade.