The ebbs and flows of the baseball postseason can be tough. Between the long series, travel days, the breaks between innings, and the gaps between pitches and at-bats, there is so much time for the emotion of the situation to ferment, turning into something more potent than reality.
For example, after Friday night’s Royals win, I think most Royals fans were ecstatic. The post-game show from the Power & Light district in KC sure made it appear that way. Fans were celebrating as if the series was over. Even for those of us who were more sober in our assessments of where the series was could not help but think ahead, knowing that the Royals were now just two wins away from a World Series title, and had four games to win those two.
That belief was even stronger at about 10:00 pm EDT Saturday night, when the Royals chased Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong and held a 4–1 lead midway through game four. It was impossible not to start counting outs until Kelvin Herrera would come in, knowing that when he entered the game, the Giants had no chance of coming back. Six outs to Herrera meant nine outs from winning the game and then just 27 outs away from clinching the series. The math seemed so easy.
The problem was what happened over those six outs before Herrera could come in. Everything fell apart. That 4–1 lead became a tie game, and soon turned into an 11–4 Giants rout.
In the back of my mind someone whispered something about counting unhatched chickens.
So tie series, no big deal, right?
Except Madison Bumgarner was on the hill for the Giants in game five. The guy who has been automatic in the postseason, the guy putting up some of the best numbers in the history of post-season baseball. Against a team that must always battle its offensive demons.
James Shields pitched his best game in over a month for the Royals. He was let down by three tough defensive plays that allowed two runs. Ned Yost made decisions that made no sense, which was kind of refreshing after a month of everything he tried working out. And the Royals went to the eighth inning down 2–0.
Which would have been an acceptable loss. Until Herrera put two on and Wade Davis gave up a shocking two-run double to Juan Perez that missed being a home run by about three inches. Those three inches didn’t matter as Perez came home a batter later to put the Giants up 5–0.
An understandable loss became a crushing one as the impenetrable bullpen let the game slip away. Twenty-six hours earlier we were thinking about a 3–1 series lead. Now we were tossing and turning in bed wondering if the bats can reignite with the return to Kansas City for game six, worried that the untouchable bullpen’s mystique may have been dashed, knowing the next loss means the season was over.
And now we get to stew about it for 36 hours.
Time to hit the antacid bottle.
History suggests teams that return home down 3–2 are in good shape. The last time the Royals were in the World Series they were in the same position and ended up winning. But after the last 13 innings, it’s hard to feel confident about their chances.