When a player nicknamed “Moose” becomes as agile in the field as a gazelle, it is time to acknowledge that fate is against you.
Imagine what the Baltimore Orioles were thinking Tuesday night as they gazed out at Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas’ acrobatic catch of a foul pop-up off Adam Jones. As the ball drifted into unplayable territory, Moustakas, who at 6 feet tall and 190 pounds does not have the build of a balance-beam walker, circled under it.
Moments of a surreal nature
Just when it seemed illogical to surmise Moustakas had a chance to glove the descending ball and retire the dangerous Jones, he lunged, turning his body horizontal to the ground on top of a fan barrier railing. Desperately, Moustakas thrust his glove out and simultaneously tumbled over the fence into the protective arms of delirious, blue-clad Royals fans who politely eased him to the ground without incident.
If that bordered on the surreal, the fact that Kansas City’s 2-1 victory took less than three hours to complete is more difficult to believe. Many playoff games this October have stretched beyond four hours. They shut the books on this one in 2:55.
Underdogs on the cusp of greatness
In an American League Championship Series noted for Royals players cavorting all over the landscape of first Orioles Park at Camden Yards and now Kauffman Stadium, this was further proof that if you catch everything the opposition hits, they won’t score runs.
Amazingly, the Royals, who have thus far pocketed triumphs in a Wild Card game, and a three-game sweep in the AL Division Series, now lead 3-0 in the ALCS. Underdogs throughout, Kansas City likely has broken more than one bank account amongst bettors in Las Vegas. Not even the most hardcore Royals fan would have expected this streak.
Up until now the rarest piece of jewelry in Kansas City has been a Royals World Series. There have been two limited editions, in 1980, when the Royals lost, and in 1985, when they won. Perusing baseball history – with only one playoff team ever rebounding from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series – it is virtually certain a third collector’s piece will be minted soon. This is either going to be one of the greatest upsets in baseball history or one of the greatest comebacks.
The speed of this game came about because base runners were almost an endangered species. It’s not as if Kansas City abused Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen. He allowed just two runs in 5 1/3 innings. Reliever Kevin Gausman went 2 2/3 without giving K.C. a hit. No shame there.
But look at the Royals. Starter Jeremy Guthrie surrendered three hits and one run. Then came the parade from the bullpen, one hitless inning apiece delivered by Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrara, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. They are about to bronze Davis, he of the 1.00 earned run average of the regular season, who has been better in the post-season.
Orioles in disarray
What can the Orioles be thinking? The leading sluggers of the long season, Baltimore is wearing the name of famed author Tom Clancy on their jersey sleeves because he was a part-owner before he died a year ago. Their “The Hunt For October Success” is a slightly different mission than was delineated in one of his best-sellers.
The Orioles won 96 games over the summer and swept the Detroit Tigers in their own Division Series. Now they can’t notch a single “W” against 88-game-winning KC. It doesn’t figure at all, but it is reality.
Casting his eye over the roaring crowd of 40,183 fans, which was described in the box score officially as “106 percent full,” television announcer Ernie Johnson said, “This city is off the charts right now.”
Wait till the Royals advance to the World Series. Somebody will have to order new charts.