Twenty-four hours can make a huge difference in the mood of a sports fan.
Wednesday morning I think most of us Royals were down. Not because the Royals dropped game one to the Giants. I bet a lot of us figured it would be a tough task to beat Madison Bumgarner. But James Shields getting rocked early wasn’t in the plan. The Royals returning to their early July flailing at everything mode of offense wasn’t in the plan.
And I was pretty damn nervous up until around 10:30 Eastern last night. The Royals missed chances to knock out Jake Peavy early and had suddenly seen ten straight batters retired, often on early swings. Even with the Royals bullpen involved, it felt like a game that could easily slip away.
But then it all clicked, at least for one inning.
Single. Walk. Single, run scored, and the Royals were up and the K was rocking.
Following a fly out, a crushed double that scored two by Salvador Perez and I was whooping and yelling.
Then Omar Infante jumped all over a fat pitch for a two-run homer to make it 7-2. Kids might have been woken with my yelling and clapping. They’re on fall break; I did not care.
Game, effectively, over.
Now, on a travel day, we’re feeling good about ourselves and the Royals’ chances over the next five games. Sure, Bumgarner looms in game five. And the Royals will lose Billy Butler’s bat because the archaic National League rules. But the Giants have to sit a bat, too. AT&T Park is a noted pitcher’s park1, which should be good for Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas. And then there’s turmoil in the Giants’ bullpen thanks to Hunter Strickland’s2 ineffectiveness and general craziness and Tim Lincecum’s injury last night.
As we’ve already seen, things can swing quickly in these intense, post-season series. But I’m much happier at 1-1 than I would have been down 0-2 with 48 hours to stew over it.
I wanted to keep score for the entire series. Tuesday I was working on getting the girls to bed and ran down just in time to catch the first pitch. I left my scorebook upstairs, so marked the first inning in a notebook with the idea of adding it to my scorebook after the inning ended. The Giants’ 3-0 start made me scrap that idea.
But I kept score last night. Which I clearly have to do every game now.
It gets a little messy in the midst of the Royals’ big sixth inning.
I must admit it was a little emotional watching the big crowds at Kauffman as Fox went live each night. I’ve said over-and-over one of my favorite things about the past two years has been hearing those loud, mid-season crowds on the radio feed when things have gone well. But seeing 40,000 people on their feet and roaring cemented how this is really happening. How after years of tiny crowds, often with significant chunks of fan rooting for the opponent, Kauffman was finally looking the way it looked when I first fell in love with baseball. Better, even, than back then thanks to all the changes that have been made over the years. For as big a ballpark as it is, with the new seats in the outfield and then the foul line stands completely packed, it has a much more intimate feel than the large, open, plastic-turfed ballpark the classic Royals teams played it.
Seeing it like this is a powerful reminder of how Kansas City was once one of the best baseball towns in the big leagues. It felt wonderful, but it hurt a little too. It hurt that it took so long for it to happen again. And it hurt not to be there. I’m jealous of those of you who have been able to go to games this post season.
Post season games always have a different roar. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something about a line shot that could score a run in front of an amped, October crowd that sounds different than the same hit in June. After hearing those roars in the Bronx, Boston, St. Louis, Texas, and San Francisco during the HDTV era, it was wonderful to hear them echo through Jackson County, Missouri.
OK, one more. It’s great hearing Joe Buck call Billy Butler’s lined single, Perez’s rocket double, and Infante’s home run. Whether you like him or not, moments just feel bigger when the national voice of the sport is describing it to the world.
I wore one of my Royals jerseys out and about Wednesday. I got stopped by two people in five minutes at the mall who wanted to talk about the Royals. That’s never happened before. Good times.