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Until Tuesday’s 7-1 defeat at home to the San Francisco Giants in game one of the 2014 World Series, the Kansas City Royals were unbeaten and immune to adversity in the MLB post-season.
Perhaps they were motivated by the sting from last season, failing to catch divisional-opponent the Cleveland Indians and falling seven games back to finish off a disappointing end to an otherwise positive 86-76 season that saw the team have its first winning season since 2003.
After securing a playoff spot for the first time in 29 seasons on Sept. 26 following a 3-1 win in Chicago versus the White Sox, the Royals set sail for a wild card meeting with the Oakland A’s, who bolstered their team on the July 31st trade deadline acquiring starting pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Johnny Gomes from the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The A’s fell apart down the stretch, but still managed to find themselves up 7-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth of the AL Wild Card game.
Then in the eighth, facing Lester, Escobar found home after a stolen base and RBI-single from Lorenzo Cain that ended Lester’s outing. Luke Gregerson would finish the inning, but not before allowing two runs to bring the Royals within 1 run away from drawing even.
The Royals did just that in the ninth. A sac-fly from Nori Aoki brought home Jarrod Dyson and drew the game even and the crowd of Royals faithful alive. After taking the lead again in the 12th, the A’s had yet another opportunity to close down the fort and punch their ticket to a California-match up against the L.A. Angels. But, in the resiliency that has become a staple of the Royals this playoff year, Hosmer to draw even at 8 before Salvador Perez singled, allowing Christian Colon, who previously stole second to reach home and send the A’s packing.
What followed was a stunning sweep of the L.A. Angels, holding the big three of Trout, Pujols and Hamilton to three hits, going 3-for-37 in the series. Then, heading into the ALCS with the only other undefeated team, the Royals continued their dominance with a 4-0 sweep over the Baltimore Orioles and a trip to the World Series. The highlight of the 2-1 game 4 victory? Left fielder, Alex Gordon robbing Baltimore’s JJ Hardy to record the first out of the inning. The run-down of the ball was impressive enough, but the dramatic fashion that saw Gordon slam into the wall, fall to the ground, and a pause with relative silence—and then like something out of one of the Major League films, he raised his glove and cheers emerged.
It was that moment that exemplified the Royals post-season ride that has been nothing short of your classic baseball movie filled with the no-name group with little star power and mediocrity surrounding them for the past decade or so that ultimately succeeds by committee.
The Royals will try and add to their post-season script that has finally dawn a shade of adversity to the plot en route to baseball’s biggest prize and a run that won’t soon be forgotten by baseball admirers.
Neal McHale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @nealmchale.