New York Gets The Royals Treatment
By John Ventola
Kansas City won its first world championship in thirty years Sunday night when it pulled off one of its patented late-inning rallies to tie New York in the ninth inning and win with a five-run 12th inning, 7-2. The well-balanced Royals finished off the Mets in five games, capturing a title they came close to last year before losing to San Francisco in seven games.
Steady shortstop Alcides Escobar hit an inside-the-park home run on the first pitch of
the Series, and although the first and fifth games went to extra innings, and Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard handcuffed the Royals in the first game in New York, Kansas City seemed to be in charge throughout the five games.
Sunday’s victory was indicative of the Royals’ refusal to give up. Down 2-0 to hard-throwing right-hander Matt Harvey, Lorenzo Cain worked a 3-2 pitch for a walk, stole second base, and then scored when Eric Hosmer bounced a double off of the left field wall. Hosmer advanced to third on a groundout, then alertly gambled and scored the tying run when catcher Sal Perez hit a broken-bat chopper to Mets third baseman David Wright.
Wright fielded the ball, checked Hosmer at third, and threw across the diamond to first baseman Lucas Duda for the second out. Hosmer took off as soon as Wright let the ball go, sliding head first to beat an errant throw from Duda back to home plate.
While announcers were describing Hosmer’s play as “heads-up”, which it was, this blogger thought about how the subtleties of the game of baseball make it such a
beautiful sport to watch and enjoy. The guts of the game that those who describe it as boring refuse to understand and appreciate.
Wright could have had Hosmer easily with a fake throw to first base (all teams, professional and college, practice this), but Hosmer’s timing was precise, and caught the Mets napping somewhat. Duda’s catch of the throw to first and his quick, off-target throw back home was caused by his nonchalance at first base, and a smart baseball move by Perez that went unnoticed by announcers on television replays.
Perez ran inside of the baseline (with a few steps on the baseline) to cause the sidearm throw by Duda. Subtle, but effective. Just enough to partially block Duda’s vision toward home plate and cause him into an awkward throwing motion.
Put it this way, if Duda’s throw would have hit Perez coming down the line and there was a video replay, the two teams would be going back to Kansas City for game six. He was inside the baseline as he reached first base.
One thing for sure, there was no way the tying run was going to be left on third base to
end a game (last year’s seventh game against the Giants), because of non-aggressive base-running by the Royals.
Mets manager Terry Collins had decided to remove Harvey after eight innings and replace him with his top reliever Jeurys Familia. Harvey talked his way back to the mound for the ninth inning, a move that Collins admitted afterwards was a mistake. He made a managerial mortal sin, using his heart instead of his gut in making an in-game decision.
Thirty years ago Hall of Famer George Brett, star centerfielder Willie Wilson, and second baseman Frank White led the Royals to their first world championship when KC beat Missouri rival St. Louis in seven games. Righthander Bret Saberhagen pitched the final game 11-0 shutout to climax what had been a tough upward move for the expansion franchise.
The Royals, founded in 1969, were often eliminated in divisional playoffs by the Yankees before busting through. The original franchise of Kansas City, the Athletics, moved to Oakland in 1968. (Athletics were in Philadelphia 1901-1954, Kansas City 1955-1967). During its time in Kansas City, the team was little more than a farm team for the powerful Yankees. Any player that showed promise was soon wearing pinstripes in New York.
Dominican Edinson Volquez gave another outstanding pitching effort after returning from this father’s funeral earlier in the week. Volquez pitched six innings of two-hit ball to follow up his opening game six-inning stint. Although he did not figure in either
decision, the Royals went on to win each game in extra innings.
Kansas City’s pitching rotation is solid with Volquez, Yordano Ventura, Johnny Cueto, and veteran Chris Young. The staff is built to go six or seven innings and then turn it over to probably the best relief staff in the major leagues. Wade Davis, Danny Duffy Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochever, Ryan Madson, and Kris Medlin offer up different pitch repertoires that Manager Ned Yost uses masterfully. Another closer, star Greg Holland, was injured earlier in the year.
Cueto second game two-hitter gave the bullpen needed rest. His route going effort gave relievers an extra day to go along with the travel day to change game sites.
The Royals defense features excellent fielders with speed. Cain anchors an outfield that has Alex Gordon and Alex Rios in left field and right field, respectively. Yost believes in speed (he had a minor league outfielder with no major league hits on the league’s playoff roster) and Cain and Escobar pace an aggressive running game.
Escobar and second base partner Ben Zobrist are solid up the middle, while Moustakas and smooth fielding Hosmer hold down third base and first base.
The entire batting order works opposing pitchers and puts balls in play, striking out infrequently. The Royals may not have a superstar on its roster like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, but the entire roster plays the game the right away. Alert, taking an extra base here, or taking advantage of an opposing player’s lapse there.
This blogger noticed unusual things happening early last summer in Kansas City. The morning box scored showed something special was occurring there. It has been fun watching the maturation of a smooth functioning baseball machine. The Royals are fun to watch, and I hope free agency will not raise its ugly head and bust up this “small market” team.
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