This time I got to watch.
Fifty-four weeks ago, when the Royals made their insane comeback against Oakland in the Wild Card game, we were in the final hours of our Time Without Cable. Thus I was huddled up with my computer and a bluetooth speaker, listening to the Royals radio broadcast deep into the night.
Yesterday, I got to watch most of the Fox TV broadcast. I did have to listen to a couple innings as I picked the girls up from school. We got home just as Terrance Gore was attempting to steal third base in the top of the seventh. I was back on the couch in time to watch Carlos Correa hit his second home run of the game and then Colby Rasmus add an apparent insurance run on his homer.
The season was over. The Royals bats had been lifeless almost the entire series, no way were they waking up now. Houston fans were making a deafening roar. You could see in the Astros dugout that it was going to be a formality to get the last six outs and move on to the ALCS. I texted some friends wondering how many pitches the Royals would see in the last two innings. I suggested it would be less than 20.
It was a fine day to be wrong.
The Royals saw around 50 pitches in the top of the eighth alone as they launched a small-ball, small-market rally that ended when they had scored five runs to take the lead. My body was numb from the rally and my tongue was numb after I polished off roughly half a bag of sunflower seeds through the inning. Moments later, I let out a mighty roar when Eric Hosmer obliterated a baseball and added two more runs to the Royals total in the top of the 9th. Upstairs, I could hear girls giggling at me, while outside birds scattered from the trees. I think a car alarm may have gone off in the neighbor’s garage. Somewhere, a dog barked. I was a little loud.
Wade Davis breezed through the 9th and the series was headed back to Kansas City. The Royals dugout was both excited and business-like. They had been through this before. They knew there was another game to play. The Houston dugout looked utterly defeated.
The question was quickly raised, how did this compare to the comeback a year ago? At first I was dismissive of the comparison. Sure, it was another elimination game, a moment when the end of the season was staved off in dramatic fashion. But the game a year ago had the tension of the Royals’ comeback stretching over two innings, then going on to extra innings, where they had to comeback one more time. Monday’s game seemed lost, but it also turned on a dime. With Davis coming in for the 8th with the lead, I was pretty sure the Royals had the win.
But the more I thought about it, and the more information that got shared on Twitter, I rethought that opinion. The Royals odds to win a year ago were slightly higher than they were yesterday when the 8th inning began. Last year was at home, with the KC crowd to help fuel the comebacks. This year it was in front of Houston’s frenzied fans. And, sure, Houston’s bullpen can be suspect. But there was a feeling in the stadium that the game was over. A feeling that was completely flipped over the course of the next 40 minutes.
I’m going to cop out and say they were both pretty fantastic and, like my kids, I can’t pick a favorite. Last year’s game has the added weight of being the moment that launched the Royals through the next three weeks of the post-season. Was yesterday’s as big of a boost, or will it be a game we remember fondly but singularly because Houston wins game five tomorrow? I guess we’ll know in about 36 hours.
Which means we have 36 hours left to savor another phenomenal moment in this chapter of Royals history. Hopefully they’re not done yet, and there are more pages to write.