Remember when I wrongly predicted that the Oakland A’s would win the Wildcard game? Funny story, but the Kansas City Royals won that game, and the seven games that followed, and are now going to the World Series. The Royals, along with manager Ned Yost, are the first team to start 8-0 in the postseason in baseball history. A lot went wrong for them in the regular season, and I meant a lot, but what seems to be going to right for them right now? In a word: Everything.
On September 30th at approximately 9:30 p.m. the Royals were all but finished. Down by four runs in the eighth inning, spirits were down, and the offense was barely clinging to life. Up comes Alcides Escobar, he singles, steals a base, sacrificed over by Nori Aoki, and scores on a Lorenzo Cain single. That’s when things started looking up for the Royals, and they have cruised ever since. Three. What is the significance of the number three? Three is the number of times the Royals trailed in the postseason this year: The Wildcard game against the A’s, game three of the ALDS against the Angels (though they scored in the next half of the inning), and game two of the ALCS.
I found this quote on twitter from @KCSportsNation about how one fan of the opposing team feels, and I thought it was on point: “Unless you score ten runs on one of their starters, what chance do you have? They roll out one cyborg after another from the pen. Their nine hitter is better than most teams’ five hitter. Nothing but speed all over the place. They decide they need to score in an inning and like magic, they score. We have not had the lead once. How many innings have we gotten them 1-2-3? One inning? They have zero injured players. I love our guys, and I am so appreciative of the season they had, but I have never seen an opponent where I literally feel powerless watching.”
Those so-called “cyborgs” that this person is talking about? Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. The three of them have pitched 25.2 innings this postseason and have given up three runs. Luckily for Kansas City, they have a five day break for those arms to get rested because the three of them have been a bit overworked. You also can’t sleep on Brandon Finnegan. Heck, the kid was pitching in the College World Series back in May…. Look where he is now. It’s likely that he’ll make the World Series roster because Ned Yost has openly said that Finnegan or Jason Frasor are the sixth inning guys depending on match-up. The pitching staff as a whole has been really rock-solid: 2.93 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 69 strikeouts, in eighty innings pitched. As everyone has said all year, “Games against the Royals are usually six innings. If you don’t have the lead after six, you’re not winning that ballgame.” Side-note: The Royals have one loss while leading after eight innings. That loss was to the Dodgers in July.
The saying, “Defense wins championships.” Applies in baseball as much as it does other sports. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas (the world’s best number nine hitter), Eric Hosmer, Jarrod Dyson, Omar Infante, Nori Aoki, Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar. Did I miss anyone? Nope, that’s all nine guys, and all nine guys are exceptional defenders. The Royals have made zero errors this postseason, and have made at least two highlight plays each game. Their main jaw-dropping plays have come from one man: Lorenzo Cain. I thought at the end of the regular season that there was no way he could get any better. I was wrong (again). Lorenzo Cain is simply on another level. I had the pleasure of going to ALDS game three, and Lorenzo Cain had a ball hit to him, and we were all sure that it meant doom for the Royals, but Cain caught it. The very next play was about the same. Right before the play, I was in the middle of saying, “Well, he can’t catch this one.” To my surprise, he caught the ball. This defense, among other things is a thing of beauty.
While phenomenal on defense, Lorenzo Cain is no slouch on offense either. In eight playoff contests, Lorenzo Cain is batting .353/.378/.441 with three doubles and two stolen bases. The other man soaring in the area of offensive production is Eric Hosmer. In the same span, Hosmer is hitting .448/.556/.759 with eight RBIs and two home runs. I would throw Mike Moustakas in with other offensive stars. Though his .241 batting average is very subpar, four home run in the postseason is nothing to overlook…. All in the nine hole, might I add? Heck, he even bunted for a base hit once.
Speaking of bunting, Ned Yost has been a man of interest this month. His less-than-traditional antics have been the talk of the nation. From bringing in your number three starter in the sixth inning of an elimination game, all the way to making your number three (and ALCS MVP) bunt to give up an out. This October, the term “Yosted” has a new meaning.
The final threat on the Royals ball club is speed. Speed is everywhere on that team, and they are so explosive, it’s scary. Terrance Gore. That’s the guy that scares me. Gore normally makes his appearances late in the game after someone that is weak on defense (or weaker) to try to manufacture a run. Gore is a spitting image of his teammate, Jarrod Dyson, in my opinion. Dyson is the other man that comes off of the bench. The two of these guys make for a deadly combination on the base paths.
Sure, you’ve got a decent offense, good pitching, and outstanding defense. None of that matters if you lack heart. Kansas City seems to have a fine balance of all four components, which makes them a deadly opponent for whomever may come their way. The Royals are young, and I worry that their maturity may play a factor in this series. I will say what I’ve said all along: The only team that can beat the Royals are the Royals. My advice to the team is don’t get cocky and think you’re better than everyone just because you swept your way here. None of that matters from this point on. It’s a clean slate, and if they do what they do all postseason long, they’re sure to be partying like it’s 1985 by the beginning of November.
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