Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Royals’ passionate fortitude pays off

The Kansas City Royals didn't seem to have any business winning Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card game after falling behind 7-3 to the Oakland Athletics. But, they brushed aside a managerial gaffe and pushed each other to an improbable 9-8 victory in front of a boisterous and wanting Kauffman Stadium crowd.

With “Big Game” James Shields on the mound, the Royals held a tenuous 3-2 lead in the sixth inning after being down 2-0 after one-half inning. With a bullpen which simply dominated much of the regular season waiting, Royals’ manager Ned Yost went to Yordano Ventura with two men on and Brandon Moss at the plate. Moss had already destroyed a Shields’ pitch earlier in the game for a two-run homer.

Ventura is a promising young right-handed starter. Yes that’s right; Yost went with a right-handed starter with a power-hitting lefty at the plate while he had a slew of experienced relief arms at his disposal. It backfired as Moss launched a massive home run to dead center field giving the A’s a 5-3 lead. The visitors tacked on two more runs and held the same margin heading to the bottom of the eighth.

A’s starter Jon Lester was in a groove once the lead was his, but began to falter in the eighth and eventually the Royals used their speed and some sacrifice bunts to push across three runs to get within one.

With each hit, each steal and for every sacrifice bunt, the Royals seemed entirely pumped up. While the fans were downtrodden after the home team squandered the lead and fell well behind, the players could be seen pushing one another and telling each other that they could come back.

And they did. Three times.

Here’s how the ninth inning unfolded -- pinch-hit single (Josh Willingham), pinch-runner (Jarrod Dyson), sac bunt (Alcides Escobar) moved runner to second, runner stole third, sac fly (Nori Aoki), tying run scored. It was nothing spectacular, or incredibly dramatic, but obviously useful.

The Royals gave up the lead in the top of the 12th inning, but they would not be deterred. Again, while urging each other on, the Royals were down to their final three outs. This time, they got a big one-out triple by Eric Hosmer, his third hit of the game, and he scored a high chopper by Christian Colon. Colon, with two outs, stole second. He was the seventh different Royal to steal a base in the game.

With Colon in scoring position and Salvador Perez in the throngs of a 0-for-5 game, the Royals’ catcher reached for an outside pitch and pulled it past a diving Josh Donaldson at third base delivering the game-winning single.

With much more drama and finally victorious, the Royals extended their postseason winning streak to four games. They last celebrated a postseason win in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Royals’ fans can thank the players for staying passionate despite three separate deficits in the game. The Royals showed everyone outside Kansas City that they'll be able to win by small ball tactics and a raging fire in the belly.

Kansas City Royals logo courtesy of

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In.