This wasn’t supposed to happen. This couldn’t happen.
The team that wasted opportunities, that was full of guys who failed to fulfill their potential, that maddeningly clung to out-dated ways of playing the game, that team was not supposed to do this.
Maybe win a game, perhaps two, sure. But not sweep out the Best Team In Baseball. Not by winning two-straight in Anaheim, both on the strength of outstanding pitching, fine defense, and extra inning home runs from the two guys who most symbolized the recent failures of the Royals, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.
Not by trouncing the Angels in the deciding game, getting a three-run double on a two-strike pitch in the first that chased starter C.J. Wilson. Not by piling on runs steadily, including two on a massive opposite field shot by Hosmer and another on a crushed shot by Moustakas. Not by Lorenzo Cain playing centerfield like Deion Sanders played cornerback, catching everything hit his way. And certainly not with Billy Butler scoring from first one inning and stealing a base cleanly two innings later.
Some of that could have happened. But to say all of it happened, in one three-game stretch? That’s just crazy. Insane. Unbelievable.
And all that on top of Tuesday’s Wild Card epic? I’d laugh like Will Ferrell shot up by a tranquilizer in Old School and say, “You’re crazy, man,” over and over.
Yet here I am, bleary eyed but overjoyed on Monday morning. Four times in the last six nights I’ve stayed up far later than is healthy to watch the Royals rip off four-straight playoff wins. Three extra inning affairs that lasted until at least 1:00 AM and then last night’s nearly anti-climatic nine inning game that still took over 3 1/2 hours to complete, and then had me buzzing so much that I was still staring at the ceiling at 2:00 AM. Exorcising 29 years of ghosts will have that effect. It’s taken its toll, but it’s been worth it.
I don’t want to write too much, because I hope there’s a bunch more to write in the coming weeks. But it has been amazing to watch this team transform over the last week. A weight seems to have been lifted from their shoulders. Hosmer is playing with an All-Star swag we’ve been expecting from him for years. Moustakas has played like the guy we hoped, a flawed hitter who can still get his bat on the ball with pop, rather than the waste of talent he’s so often seemed at the plate. Sal Perez was taking pitches. Hell, everyone was taking pitches! Yordano Ventura was lights out in his start Friday. Jason Vargas was steady and limited the damage the Angels did to him. The bullpen was the same nasty selves they’ve been all year. It seems like finally getting into the playoffs, then getting that dramatic win over Oakland in the Wild Card game allowed everyone to take a deep breath, exhale, and play with a looseness that they’ve never had.
Now we have a series that is great for those of us who discovered baseball in the 1970s. Baltimore went to the playoffs in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, and 1983. The Royals were in the playoffs in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1984, and 1985. The two model franchises of the 1970s never ran into each other in October. They finally get their chance. It’s also a bit ironic for me, as I rebounded from my divorce with the Royals in 1991 by hooking up with the Orioles for the next 5–6 years.
We get four nights to catch up on our sleep in preparation for the ALCS. Unless, of course, the teams still playing in the National League decide to keep playing 18 inning games.
- As two of my loyal readers, John N. and Sean M. can vouch for, I called Hosmer’s home run Friday. Of course, I also claimed that Nori Aoki would homer in his final at bat that night. Instead he grounded out. I have a saying I send my KU buddy Ed L. during late games when there’s a big dunk or huge three, “WAKE UP THE KIDS!” I’ll text him. Hosmer’s home run was a definite wake the kids moment, as I screamed and threw the baseball I was holding against the back of the couch. Man, did he destroy that pitch. Everything we’ve been holding onto since Daryl Motley’s home run in 1985 came out on that one. ↩