Once again, I’m at a loss.

How did any of this happen?

How did they go from losing four straight after the All-Star break, falling to 48–50, to this?

How did they go from reasonable people screaming that they should be trading James Shields at the trading deadline to this?

How does a manager who is routinely, almost daily, mocked for his in-game decisions push the right button over and over again once the playoffs began?

How did they go from kicking the ball all over the field in late August and early September to this, one of the finest defensive shows in playoff history?

How did they go from four runs down with five outs left in their season to this?

How does a team do almost everything wrong for nearly 30 years and then rip off eight-straight post season wins?

The Kansas City Royals are champions of the American League. The Kansas City Royals are four wins away from a World Series championship.

I honestly never, ever thought I would be able to say that again in my life.

And remember, I’ve written here a couple times about maybe, just maybe, if the Royals could ever squeak into the post-season they might be in solid shape, between their excellent starting rotation, their phenomenal defense, their ability to manufacture runs, and their historically good bullpen. The team that never made anything easy in the regular season might just have been built for the post season.

But I never expected this to happen. And certainly not in the way it has happened. Eight straight wins? Get out of here.

The craziest thing is how it seems like they’re on an epic hot streak. Yet all but one of these games could have easily gone the other way. Four one-run games. Four extra inning games. Another game where the winning runs came across in the top of the ninth. At the macro level they are ripping through the playoffs. At the micro level, though, it’s been far from a breeze. An error here or a pitching hiccup there and this is a completely different story.

Wednesday I was as keyed up as I’ve ever been for a baseball game. My stomach was already churning hours before the game. I was a tense mess most of the game. As the Royals kept blowing opportunities to add an insurance run, I would wind a little tighter. L. would run down and ask who was winning. The answer was always, “The Royals. But it’s close.” Then she would shout, “Yay!” and run back upstairs to report to the rest of the family.[1]

And then, when Mike Moustakas fielded J.J. Hardy’s grounder and made a perfect throw to Eric Hosmer for the last out, a flood of emotions hit me.

Relief. Disbelief. Amazement. Elation. Shock. Happiness (and jealousy) for all my friends who were in the K to watch the team clinch.

Again, this was never going to happen. The Royals might be decent, respectable even, one day. But no way were they going to rip through the first three rounds of the playoffs and have a chance to win it all. Whether it was the curse of Don Denkinger or just there would be five better teams the Royals had to get through, something would end their playoff run before the World Series.

This is just stupid. But so great.

I have no idea if they can keep it going. It concerns me that the bats went quiet over the last two games. But the pitching was nails and it didn’t matter. I’m going to keep hoping they can do just enough at the plate to find a way to win four more before the year is over.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that their school librarian is a Missouri native who spent some time in Kansas City and is pulling for the Royals. This week she read C.’s and L.’s classes books about baseball, then asked if anyone knew who was still playing. Each time she asked my girls to answer first, and each time they proudly answered “The Royals!” C. even shared with her class how I’ve been “staying up super late to watch games,” and “sometimes he yells when they hit home runs and wakes me up.” Yelled, yes. Wake her up, no. She’s two floors away and even with her difficulty falling asleep, that kid sleeps through anything once she’s out.  ↩