The Kansas City Royals may not survive to play in the World Series, but one thing certain about their October on the national stage is that casual baseball fans will gain a new knowledge and appreciation of their best players.
Probably not a fan in a hundred could have told you much of anything about Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Jarrod Dyson and Nori Aoki. But after this recent stretch of baseball they will probably remember them for good. Before the playoffs began, some of those players were as anonymous as the guys in the posse chasing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
As things stand
As things stand after the first game of the American League Championship Series the Royals are on some kind of magic carpet ride. They may lose Game 2 and three others to the Baltimore Orioles, but they have made a point that they are a team on the rise and to be reckoned with when the 2015 season begins. The Detroit Tigers should be looking over their shoulders.
The Royals finished 89-73 and second in the American League Central behind Detroit, but their September charge made the Tigers as nervous as possible. Kansas City was not quite good enough to overtake Detroit this season, but once the playoffs started, the Royals, who were underdogs in every game, proved to be the scrappiest team this side of the Bad News Bears.
Fives games into their post-season the Royals were 5-0 and had to go to overtime to win four of them. If we didn’t know better Kansas City was poised to lobby the new commissioner to make games 10 innings long instead of the historical nine.
Recipe for success
K.C. is in whatever-it-takes mode and whatever is working. On any given long evening the Royals win by stealing bases in clusters, employing somewhat obscure pitchers to throw like kings, and after hitting fewer home runs than any team in the majors, they pop a timely one out of the ball park.
Going back to the beginning, the Royals were doomed, trailing 7-3 to the Oakland A’s with Jon Lester on the mound in the Wild Card game. They won it. Next, they had to face the AL West Division champion Los Angeles Angels, who won more games than any team in the sport in 2014, and not only did Kansas City win the Division Series, they swept the favorites. The Angels are probably lining up outside psychiatrists’ offices looking for explanations.
Then the Royals went up 1-0 against the Orioles, refusing to wilt after ceding a 5-1 lead Friday night, by bashing out an 8-6 victory. Wade Davis, the winner, had a 1.00 ERA this season. He was 9-2 and basically gave up an earned run a month.
Who are they?
Dyson stole 36 bases. Hosmer is just plain good. Perez looks as if he will be an All-Star backstop fixture. And Lorenzo Cain is busting out all over. He batted .301 with 28 stolen bases this season. He has been around for a few years, but between his brilliant fielding in center, his long-legged speed on the bases and his better eye at the plate it’s as if he is a new player.
Nori Aoki is no fresh face, but it does appear that he purchased a new glove at Dick’s Sporting Goods the way he has been spearing shots near the wall in right field.
Maybe the Royals’ mojo will give out. Or maybe they are on the run of the century and will win it all this year. But at the absolute least Kansas City has announced itself to the baseball world after three decades of wandering in the wilderness. The Royals have arrived.