The crowned Royals ride the roach coach to the Series

Greg Holland, Salvador PerezJ.J. Hardy’s two-out, down-to-the-Orioles-last-strike hopper caught Mike Moustakas right where Moustakas wanted it on the third base line. Moustakas’s high throw across the infield caught first baseman Eric Hosmer right where he wanted it. OK, a little bit high, but nothing to it. We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all throughout the picture.

Just like the only two runs the Royals would need to put on the board all day long scored on a pair of grounders and a sacrifice. Big deal. We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all throughout the picture.

Just like the stare-em-down, shoot-em-down bullpen gave the Orioles nothing but headaches for four innings with a little help from the Royal defense as per usual, including another would-be gut-busting catch somewhere out of nowhere. Meh. We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all through out the picture.

Kansas City’s cockroaches hitched up their roach coach and rode to their first World Series since the Reagan Administration Wednesday afternoon with the kind of power the Orioles, with their big bats, couldn’t bring to bear if they’d brought bats wired into hand-held nuclear weapons.

They made manager Ned Yost the first in baseball history to have an 8-0 record in the first eight postseason games he’s ever managed. Not even John McGraw, Connie Mack, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Tony La Russa, or Terry Francona brought that one off.

Everything an Oriole hit somehow seemed to find its way to a Royal glove, when every Royal with a glove wasn’t finding his way to anything and just about everything any Oriole hit, that is. Everything an Oriole threw seemed to find a smooch from a Royal bat. And everything an Oriole could think of to cross up these pests proved to be nothing for the Orioles except a Royal pain.

Maybe you and even the Orioles knew it was the beginning of the end in the first inning by way of Hosmer’s two-run ground out, with lead runner Alcides Escobar shoving the ball just about out of Oriole catcher Caleb Joseph’s grasp as he crossed the plate, enabling Nori Aoki to score behind him.

Maybe you and even the Orioles knew it was the middle of the end when Alex Gordon ran Hardy’s fifth-inning extra base hit-to-be down, caught it as he hit a chain-link fence embedded in front of a scoreboard, and hit the track holding the ball aloft.

Of course Escobar would cross the plate while his hind leg shoved the ball away from Joseph---that's the Royal Roach Way, no?

Of course Escobar would cross the plate while his hind leg shoved the ball away from Joseph—that’s the Royal Roach Way, no?

But when did it really seem apparent during this American League Championship Series that the Orioles, this year’s beasts of the American League East, with more long distance power than the ancient Strategic Air Command, everybody said, were badly, badly overmatched by this gang of pests who seem able to survive everything short of a terrorist attack? (And whose to say these Royals couldn’t?)

* When the Royals showed their own power surprises in Game One, hitting two home runs in the top of the tenth to smash a five-all tie?

* When they bushwhacked Oriole starter Chris Tillman for four early runs in that game—by way of Escobar’s (of all people) third inning liner over the left field fence and Gordon’s broken bat three-run double in the fourth?

* When Gordon took advantage of Buck Showalter’s tenth-inning gambit, leaving in righthanded submariner Darren O’Day to face the portsides Gordon to open, and thanked the Oriole manager by hitting a 1-1 offering four rows up the right field bleachers?

* When they left Showalter to grouse after Game Two, “A swinging bunt, a bunt, a groundball down the right field line and a groundball in the hole,” which is how he described the swinging-out-of-a-bunt (Infante), the followup sacrifice bunt (Moustakas), the double down the right field line (Escobar, swinging late on Zach Britton’s fastball), and the RBI single in the hole (Lorenzo Cain) that took care of the game-winning rally?

* When they roached their way out of a bases-loaded seventh-inning jam in Game Two, beginning when Gordon’s charge off Nelson Cruz’s single compelled third base coach Bobby Dickerson to halt lead runner Nick Markakis at third, and ending when Cain—the ALCS MVP, though almost half the roster could have claimed the prize—stepped into an outfield phone booth, came out as a 1969 Met, and ran down Hardy’s high liner toward the line in a run-and-tumble catch?

* When they kept the Orioles quiet other than Hardy’s second-inning double in Game Three and scored the only two runs they’d need then on an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly?

* When oft-second-guessed roachmaster Yost hooked his Game Three starter Jeremy Guthrie after the fifth after retiring the side in order, reached out for Jason Frasor as the possible sacrificial lamb with the heart of the Oriole lineup due up . . . and Frasor shook off the implications to get Adam Jones (foul out to third), Cruz (fly out to right), and Steve Pearce (followup fly out to right) in order?

* When Moustakas went Derek Jeter on Jones’s leadoff foul pop in that third and bent over the rail and maybe onto his head to haul it down, maybe giving Frasor the idea that these Orioles really weren’t as tough as their pre-series notices?

* When they tied it at one in that game with two bloop singles, a walk, and a bases-loaded ground out in the third?

* When Showalter stayed with his Game Three starter, Wei-Yin Chen, figuring he had two lefties out of three hitters to open against him, only to see Aoki single and pinch runner Jarrod Dyson help himself to third on Hosmer’s drill hit, before Showalter went to the pen at last and Billy Butler launched the sacrifice fly?

* When Escobar crossed the plate on his none-too-ample fanny Wednesday afternoon and, as he slid toward it, his bent left leg gave the ball just hard enough of a push past Joseph to let Aoki score practically walking? Not to mention Jason Vargas pitching five and a third worth of one run, two hit, three walk, six strikeout ball?

* Or, when Kelvim Herrera got out of the sixth Wednesday with Orioles on the corners by way of second baseman Infante being right there to turn Cruz’s bullet off the pipe into the third out?

“Today, same old story,” Gordon said almost laconically after the game. “Good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win.”

Scratch out a win? The Royals led the American League in contact hitting percentage on the season, the Orioles starting rotation was beaten out only by the Royals for the lowest strikeout rate among postseason teams. The Royals have fifteen infield hits in the postseason; all other 2014 postseason teams have had sixteen combined through this writing.

We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all through the picture!

You can point to lots of moments in which you might have known in your gut of hearts that the Royals were going to go to the World Series, that the Orioles didn’t have anything resembling the 2004 Red Sox in them, and that Kansas City was going to go nuts the moment the high throw across reached Hosmer in the ninth.

Never before in twenty previous postseason visits had the Orioles been swept in four straight. They’d opened their streak with a 1966 World Series sweep of the Dodgers. (As in, the Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale Dodgers.) The closest they got to going down in four? Dropping four straight to the Miracle Mets after winning Game One of the 1969 World Series.

As Hall of Famer George Brett joined in the celebration, the Kaufmann Stadium PA system couldn’t resist cranking out the Beatles’ exuberant version of Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City” when the Royals hit the field celebrating. Interesting choice, that.

Fifty years earlier, the Beatles were all but strong-armed into performing at ancient Municipal Stadium by Charlie Finley, owner of the then-Kansas City Athletics. The Beatles earned a then-record $150,000 for their night’s work on a date they later said they originally planned to visit New Orleans as tourists, not working musicians.

Wednesday afternoon, so far as the Kaufmann audience was concerned, it was Mardi Gras Midwest. Not even John, Paul, George, and Ringo could have out-partied that.

2 thoughts on “The crowned Royals ride the roach coach to the Series

  1. Roach coach…..I like that….Good way to describe the 2014 Royals.

    Unless I have missed it the media has not mentioned, about Ned Yost being fired by Milwaukee Brewers, with two weeks left in the 2008 season and Brewers went on to the postseason, while being managed by Dale Sveum.

    Six years later he has vindicated himself by leading the Royals to the World Series and probably being voted AL Manager of the Year.

  2. They talked a lot about Yost and the Brewers approaching the postseason. And before it. On 14 September happened a game that led Grantland’s Jonah Keri to think aloud, a day later, “There’s no sugarcoating what happened Sunday afternoon, when Ned Yost quite possibly pissed away the Royals’ season.”

    Keri was kind enough to mention Yost’s fate with the 2008 Brewers only in passing, but others weren’t. The Royals played the Red Sox that Sunday. They were up 4-3 when Jason Vargas ran into trouble in the sixth—back to back base hits, runner-advancing fly out, tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

    Yost had one of the best stacked bullpens in the league. Did he go to Wade Davis? Kelvim Herrera? Brandon Finnegan? Jason Frasor? To any of whom he could have handed the game right there?

    No. Inexplicably, Yost went to Aaron Crow. The Aaron Crow who was so horrible in August the Royals actually sent him down—and who’d given up two walks, a hit, and two runs in his most recent assignment, also against the Red Sox.

    Crow walked Yoenis Cespides, then fell behind Allen Craig before striking him out on a full count. Yost could still have turned it over to one of his better bulls with the bases loaded and two outs and a switch hitter coming to the plate. Could? Should.

    But no. He never even thought of Finnegan or even Francisley Bueno, lefties, with the approaching switch hitter, Daniel Nava, known to struggle against lefties. Yost stuck with Crow. And Nava hit the first pitch over the right field fence.

    Grand slam. The Red Sox made it hold up and, I think, tacked on another run before it was over.

    Going into that game the Royals needed to win to stay a game behind the Tigers in the division race, and about even with the Athletics and the Mariners in the wild card race.

    The good news, of course, is that something triggered into Yost’s software after that. From about then on Yost began throwing The Book out. (The Book, his book, anyway, told him not to even think about bringing in his seventh and eighth inning guys before the seventh and eighth innings, but he was in a tight race and needed a real stopper right then and there, and had plenty of options to use no matter when their “proper” innings were “supposed” to be.) He couldn’t afford not to.

    Matt Williams thought he could afford to lean on his Book because the Nationals ran away with the NL East, but I think that runaway sedated him into thinking he could get away with his Book in the postseason. And it cost him a trip to the NLCS.

    Yost figured out before he got to the postseason in the first place that there were times to throw The Book to one side. Now he’s going to the World Series. In Washington they ought to make it required viewing for Williams and his entire brain trust to watch all eight of the Royals’ postseason wins to date. They might learn a few things even if the Nats aren’t the cockroach types.

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