For many years I have enjoyed the game of baseball. 2014 was not a great season for me. The local Red Sox were horrendous, but I kept following how the league was unfolding. While I expected the Seattle Mariners would make a little playoff run this year, the other team that surprised me was the Kansas City Royals. The Royals haven’t made the playoffs in 28 years, since before I was born. That all changed when they met the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium for last night’s American League Wild Card game. The winner would face the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch the game on TV and by the time the TV was available for me to watch it, the A’s were up 7-3. Former Red Sox player Brandon Moss hit two home runs and drove in five runs early on, and it looked like the Royals had played a long, hard-fought season for naught. But I had a strange feeling that the Royals had a rally in them, but it was eleven o’clock Eastern time and I decided to just go to bed.
I somehow knew when I woke up this morning that it was going to be the A’s going home. That’s precisely what happened. I went to bed during the top of the 8th inning. The Royals tied the game in the bottom of that 8th inning. There were a couple of fluky things that happened, but really, it was just a team that wanted to win more than the A’s did.
Imported ace Jon Lester was pitching into the eighth and was lifted for ace reliever Luke Gregerson. But Gregerson apparently forgot where the catcher’s glove was and a wild pitch allowed the Royals’ Eric Hosmer to score and make it a one-run ballgame.
With the score 7-6 going into the bottom of the ninth, the A’s brought in closer Sean Doolittle who would blow the save and the Royals would tie it.
It then went into extra innings, with the Royals’ Wade Davis, Greg Holland and rookie Brandon Finnegan holding the A’s scoreless into the 12th. Finnegan ran into some trouble and Jason Frasor unsuccessfully tried to bail him out. The Royals went to the home half of the 12th down 8-7.
But the Royals had one last rally in them, not only tying the game again, but winning it on a walk-off hit by the Royals star catcher, Salvador Perez. It was a fitting end to what was one of the best playoff games in a long time.
The A’s had held onto the American League West division lead for a long time before mediocre play after the All-Star break in July and an epic collapse in September almost took them out of the playoffs entirely. The Seattle Mariners almost overtook them and up until the last couple days of the season, it looked as if the Mariners would be meeting the Royals for the Wild Card Game. But the Angels defeated the Mariners on the last day of the season, so the Mariners were eliminated. And now the Royals, with their gritty play, strong bullpen and timely hitting have sent the once AL West darlings home to reflect on their woeful end.
Meanwhile, the Royals enjoyed the Detroit Tigers not being as strong as they were expected to be and actually enjoyed a short while in first place in the American League Central. The Tigers rebounded late in the season to regain their division lead but the Royals kept playing well enough to hold onto one of the coveted Wild Card spots, and actually finished with a better record than the A’s (89 wins to 88 wins) which netted them the all-important home field advantage.
While I will be rooting for the Baltimore Orioles, who have easily become my second favorite team in baseball over the past few seasons, the Royals intrigue me. Of course, the Orioles will be taking on Detroit, so it’s easy for me to root for the Royals against the Angels. It would be pretty awesome to watch the unlikely division winner Orioles take on the major underdog royals in the American League Championship Series. It gives me a reason to watch; that’s for sure.
Part of me really wants me to see the Royals go all the way, though. Did Lorde’s Ella O’Connor give the Royals an unexpected blessing after admitting that her song was in fact inspired by the Kansas City ball club? Probably not. The Royals just got leads and never gave them up and piled up 89 wins, a much higher number than anyone could have anticipated. They finished only one game back of the powerhouse Detroit Tigers. Yeah, the regular season doesn’t matter anymore, but if the way the Royals played last night is any indication, the Royals are ready to win, and win it all now.
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