There is no way to explain the Royals’ charmed life, but the light-headed, giddy baseball fans of Kansas City will remember these days forever.
The Royals polished off a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday in the American League Championship Series, making eight straight victories in eight playoff games this fall. The only thing left is the World Series.
This is the third streak of this length that the Royals have mustered this year. When they won 89 games in the regular season, finishing as runner-up to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division, the Royals won 10 games in a row in June and another eight games in a row in August. There was considerably less pressure and attention on them.
Somebody will be going to Kansas City for the World Series representing the National League, but just who, the Giants or the Cardinals, isn’t yet determined.
A moment after the Royals finished off the Orioles, 2-1, for the second straight day (and by scoring the runs without hitting the ball out of the infield), loudspeakers at Kauffman Stadium played the sing-along favorite local tune, “Going to Kansas City.” Everyone from Fats Domino to Willie Nelson and the Beatles has sung it, but never 40,468 baseball fans without a backup band.
Well, somebody will be going to Kansas City for the World Series representing the National League, but just who, the Giants or the Cardinals, isn’t yet determined.
Kansas City’s World Series drought of 29 years cannot compare to the previously broken strings of the Boston Red Sox, who waited from 1918 to 2004 to win a title, or the Chicago White Sox, who waited from 1917 to 2005 to win a title. But it’s long enough for babies to be born, grow up, graduate from college, and start careers and for hair to turn gray on senior citizens.
Truly, Kansas City has been a professional sports wasteland for a while. There is no NBA basketball there. There is no NHL hockey. The Kansas City Chiefs have been as sketchy in their success as the Royals.
Truly, Kansas City has been a professional sports wasteland for a while. There is no NBA basketball there. There is no NHL hockey. The Kansas City Chiefs have been as sketchy in their success as the Royals. The Chiefs won American Football League championships and once in a while reach the NFL playoffs. They won a Super Bowl in 1969. That is the last time Kansas City appeared in the game. For most, memories of the grand old days in the AFL reside on celluloid or in yellowing newsprint.
The Orioles, favorites going into the series, are probably trying to figure out where the tornado came from that hit them. There will be some head-shaking. How did we lose? The best power-hitting team in the majors couldn’t hit a home run when it needed one. The best hitters on the O’s were bamboozled by the Royals’ superb bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland not only Wednesday, but every day.
Starters step up too
Worse, the Royals starters were almost equal to the bullpen. Whether it was James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie, or Jose Vargas, they performed admirably. Once again, Wednesday, glove work made all K.C. hurlers feel safe and secure. Left-fielder Alex Gordon caught a fly on the dead run and crashed into the fence, but as he lay on the ground he held up his glove signaling he had the ball. Need a double play? The Royals made them seem as easy to order up as take-out Chinese.
It was a star-of-the-day system for K.C., though outfielder Lorenzo Cain did bat .533 and first baseman Eric Hosmer hit .400. Closer Holland saved all four games.
The Royals are 8-0 in the playoffs, four wins in extra innings with four wins by one run (not the same ones). Only the biggest games remain. If you are going to Kansas City eat some barbecue, visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and bathe in the lights at Crown Center. The more you soak up in Kansas City, the more likely some of the Royals’ good luck will rub off on you.
The city basks in glory
After Wednesday’s game, Gordon said Kansas City’s run has been amazing. Good thing he recognizes that because he may not be part of its like again. Cain was the choice for Most Valuable Player Award, a difficult selection since so many Royals did so much. They all played key roles in uplifting not just a team, but an entire city.