Once again, I’m left wondering what to write about a baseball game.
How about this, for starters: Game Six of the ALCS was the craziest, most dramatic, and best baseball game I’ve ever watched my team play in. Keep in mind, I did not watch last year’s Wild Card game but rather listened to it. While we all know that game is the pinnacle in the history of the Kansas City Royals, Friday night’s pennant clinching win is right up there with it.
Friday had almost everything. An early lead off an ace who has dominated the Royals over the years. A stellar defensive play by Mike Moustakas in the 5th that preserved the lead. An even better play by Ben Revere in the 7th that prevented the Royals from breaking the game open (although they still added a seemingly huge insurance run in the frame). A monumental managerial blunder by Ned Yost that opened the door for the Blue Jays. Jose Bautista taking full advantage of that opening with a two-run homer, his second blast of the night, to tie the game. A 45-minute rain delay in the middle of the 8th, during which I, and I think most Royals fans, sat and stewed over Yost’s decision and Ryan Madson’s meatball to Bautista. The Royals promptly scoring the go-ahead run after the game resumed on a as great a play as you will ever see. And then Wade Davis coming back, after an hour trying to keep his arm warm, putting a runner on third with no outs, adding a runner on second with one out, and somehow getting out of the mess without letting either runner come home to preserve the win.
Whew. So much went on. Both teams played wonderful baseball most of the night. There were no errors and half a dozen defensive gems. There was terrific pitching on both sides. There were three controversial calls, all of which went the Royals’ way. The topper, of course, was that the Royals clinched their second-straight American League championship in the process. They had come from 2–1 down against Houston, with six outs to their name in game four, down four runs, and won that series. Then they smacked around the team that smacked around the American League for the last ten weeks of the regular season. And despite questions and inconsistency amongst their starting pitchers, despite barely hitting through the first five innings of most games, they were the last team standing among the five that began the American League playoffs three weeks ago.
Another thing that makes it tough to write about that game is because so much great writing was done by professionals in the wee hours of Saturday morning. They all kind of blurred together as I read them, so I fear repeating what others have said. With that in mind, here’s a list of must-reads that you should check out if you have not already.
Still, a few thoughts are in order from my perspective.
- I was a little wound up Friday. Our neighbors were having a Halloween party that night, which began at 7:00 our time. I walked the girls over, hung out a little, but did very little socializing. At 7:45 I found an excuse to duck out and get all my game-watching gear together.
- My thing this year has been chewing the hell out of sunflower seeds while watching games. My tongue may be developing a callus, which is kind of gross. Friday, even while taking a break during the rain delay, I nearly filled a large, red Dixie cup with my shells. Which is also kind of gross. I nearly had a disaster in the 9th when I set the cup down for a second and then tipped it over. Fortunately only a few seeds fell to the floor.
- I watched the first 7+ innings on our upstairs TV so I could be close if the girls needed anything. They came in and went to bed just before the rain delay. While I figured it made the most sense to watch the rest of the game in the basement, you would be correct in wondering if I didn’t have serious misgivings about switching TVs in the middle of a game. Turned out it worked ok.
- I was sure Salvador Perez got all of that pitch in the 7th and had put the Royals up 4–1 needing just six defensive outs to close the game. I was off of the couch, screaming at the TV, hands in the air. When Revere hauled it in, despite no one being in the room with me, I yelled, “He caught that?” That was such a great catch.
- While talking about things that are great, I don’t know if enough can be said about Lorenzo Cain’s romp from first-to-home to score the winning run. There was so much wonderfulness wrapped up in that play. Eric Hosmer getting a pitch he could connect with and keep fair. Cain not running with the pitch then never slowing down. Third base coach Mike Jirschele’s perfect read and perfect decision to send Cain. Both Joe Buck and the Fox cameras being surprised that Cain was roaring through third. And the fact the play wasn’t even close at home. Hell, even with a perfect throw, Cain is probably still easily safe. Buck takes a lot of grief, but his description of that play was perfect: “That was breathtaking.” Even though it only won a pennant, that was a play for the ages.
- I’m not a fan of little faith. I do consider myself a realist, though. I didn’t see any way Wade Davis could get out of the 9th without at least allowing the tying run to come home. I worried a simple base hit would score two and began stressing about Johnny Cueto handling the stress of starting Game Seven. But damn if Davis didn’t get it done. What a stressful 10 minutes or so, ending in absolute joy.
- Regarding Yost’s decision to pitch Madson in the 8th, it epitomized old-school thinking. Yost said he was worried about losing Davis before the rain hit. Which I will allow is a legitimate concern. But the Blue Jays also hammer Madson, and the top of the lineup was batting. There isn’t a clearer example of when to use your closer in an inning other than the ninth. Even if Davis could not have come back, which he ended up having to do anyway, if he gets through the inning 1–2–3, or even allows a runner or two and then retires Encarnacion and/or Colabello too, then you can ask Madson or Luke Hochevar to get through the bottom of the lineup in the 9th with a two-run lead. Just a maddening decision that put the win in jeopardy. So of course it worked out. Ned has gotten better in a lot of ways over the past few years. But that was a classic #Yosted decision.
- The game ended somewhere around midnight here in Indy. I watched all the network postgame stuff Then I flipped over to Fox Sports KC and watched the local postgame coverage until well after 2:00. I had a couple more beers. I had a celebratory glass of whiskey. When I finally went upstairs, I found two kids sleeping on my side of the bed. Rather than try to transfer both of them in my slightly altered state, I just went and collapsed in the second bed in L’s room. Even then, I had trouble sleeping. I figure I got four hours of sleep, tops, and none of it uninterrupted. Saturday night I was wiped out. I went to bed right around 9:00 and slept until roughly 8:15 Sunday morning. That’s probably the longest I’ve slept in years without being sick.
And now the Royals are on to the World Series for the second-straight year. Which is amazing. All those years I just wanted the team to be competitive again, I never figured a World Series appearance would be a realistic expectation. And now two, in consecutive years? George Brett, Frank White, and Willie Wilson never did that. It’s just insane that this is happening again.
The Mets are frightening between their dominant starting pitching and their red hot bats. But the Royals are a fastball-hitting team, so they have a puncher’s chance at the plate. Hopefully the lengthy gap between Game Four of the NLCS and tomorrow’s Game One in KC will cool off the Mets’ bats. Hopefully Edinson Volquez can keep that velocity he found in the ALCS. Hopefully Yordano Ventura can find that perfect line between pitching angry and letting his emotions get the best of him. Hopefully Johnny Cueto can be closer to his Game Five ALDS appearance than his Game Three ALCS outing. Hopefully Chris Young can continue to dazzle and confound batters. Hopefully the bullpen remains stout. And hopefully the lineup continues to get big hits in big moments.
I don’t know if things can be more fun than they were Friday, but I’m looking forward to one more series before baseball goes away until spring.
- Greatest games in Royals history: Wild Card game, Friday, Game Six of the ’85 World Series, Game Three of the ’85 ALCS, Game Three of the ’80 ALCS, Pine Tar game. That’s done quickly with minimal thought. ↩
- I used to be an Erin Andrews fan. When she was ESPN’s prime college basketball sideline reporter, she seemed to do her homework and ask solid questions. But she’s kind of a mess on baseball. Every question includes the phrase “…I mean…” which is an awful tick too many reporters use. Then whatever questions she tacks on before or after that phrase are often terrible. Trophy presentations are usually bad TV. She did nothing to make Friday’s watchable. ↩