Greg Smith, KC SportsNation
The last three days have been bad for my health. I’m LOVING IT, though. I live and die with Royals baseball. I’ve ALWAYS loved this team. Since early childhood.
I had tickets, right above the Royals dugout, since April, for Saturdays game, for my son’s birthday. I never expected that the game would actually end up meaning so much. We’re going into the game after a big 2-1 win Friday, and people are saying Saturday’s game is the biggest in town for TWENTY EIGHT YEARS! The crowd was huge, and ready to go bananas for about two pitches. Ian Kinsler rips a leadoff triple into the right center gap, and immediately takes half the crowd out of the game. I was kinda embarrassed. The people around me were fired up, and then completely lost it, and gave up. Really people?! One batter? There didn’t seem to be a lot of faith in Jeremy Guthrie. One fan said “ I knew he’d get bombed today.” Now, I wasn’t going into the game expecting a dominant performance, but sheesh. The Royals offense started ok. I liked what I saw. They were hitting the ball hard, all over the diamond. Just a lot of “right at ‘em” balls. However, by the 4th/5th inning, down 3-0, it seemed the players had the wind taken out of their sails. I was right beside them. I could see it in their faces. They had the look of “we are going to lose tonight.”
Jeremy Guthrie certainly didn’t have his best stuff this night. He was ok. (6 IP, 3 ER) MLBs criteria for a “quality start”. He only had one strikeout on the night. The last pitch he threw. Perez held the ball and ran off with it, and…tossed it right to my son! He was, of course, ecstatic.
My son and I wanted to have a good time there that night. Getting that ball, fed our fire to have some fun. C’mon, you guys! Let’s go! The offense wasn’t helping. We resorted to video bombing every left-handed batter. We OWNED the camera. This was not a FSKC broadcast. The Rangers broadcast was the feed that fans in KC were seeing this night. MLB Network picked the game up. FSKC uses more camera angles from the centerfield camera. The Rangers use the baseline views. A LOT. We knew this, as the camera had the “red light” on after each first pitch, to every lefty. We went to town. It was glorious. Epic even.
By this point, we are both slap happy – kind of like many of us Royals fans were this morning after staying up and watching that glorious win last night (no one better exemplified this group better than 810 AM’s co-host of the “Border Patrol” Steven St. John). The Royals are going 1,2,3 each inning, and quickly. Garza isn’t having to work at all. Ned heads out to the mound to make a pitching change, to Francisley Bueno, and on his way back I shout “Atta boy, Ned! We all want more Bueno!.” He looks up at me, nods and smiles. It was weird. Ned acknowledged my presence. I felt a weird sense of accomplishment, though. He usually just looks at the ground or into the dugout.
The Royals lost the game 3-1, with the whimper of a solo shot by Eric Hosmer in the ninth as their only scoring. Ugh. As the bullpen heads towards the dugout though, a one Greg F. Holland throws me the ball he was using in the pen. JOY! I felt like a 9-year-old kid, again. I’m older than this player. The first time I get a ball from a younger player, but it was just as cool.
Leaving the park was like leaving a funeral walking through the parking lot. The Royals slim playoff chance just took a HUGE hit. Every fan knew it. My high from the ball from Holland was fading. The playoffs are even more of a dream. We stayed in the parking lot for quite some time after the game to try and catch some autographs. The players were bummed too. Quiet. Just walking to their cars, without much to say, and very few had it in them to sign on this night. I couldn’t really blame them. That loss hurt bad. Real bad. They know they have to win every game, to close the season now, just for a 50/50 shot at making a one-game playoff. The crowd, for the most part, hung around to see the end though. I was glad of that. We need to support this team. The Royals’ final home attendance was 1,750,754, an average of 21,614 for 81 games. The Royals averaged 21,748 for 80 home dates last year. That stinks. We should do better, when the team is doing better. We HAVE to be better, as fans. It’s silly to complain about the organizations effort, if we aren’t going to put forth any.
Then comes Sunday. Shields gonna Shields. #BigGame James Shields, delivered. He did what he HAD to do, and what the Wil Myers trade was made for. Eight innings of shutout ball. Unfortunately, Alexi Ogando came to pitch too. A 0-0 tie through nine. Eight combined hits – only two singles from the good guys. Going to extra innings. My stomach is in knots. I live and die with this team. We had the right part of the order coming up in the 10th, though. Maybe we can score one run? We did. Eric Hosmer led off the Royals 10th by punching a double with two strikes down the left-field line off Neal Cotts. Cotts has been one of the best LH relievers in baseball this year. Great hit. Joakim Soria relieved Cotts and intentionally walked Billy Butler, and an infield single by Salvador Perez loaded the bases. I’m fired up. We HAVE to win now. No doubt, right? I’m living! Mike Moustakas promptly pops out and pinch-hitter George Kottaras grounds into a force play at the plate. OMG!!! I’m dying. This CAN’T be happening. Why!?!? Then it happens. Justin Maxwell comes to the plate. I’m really not sure what to expect here. I wasn’t exactly loving our chances. Maxwell swings and misses on the first pitch. I’m thinking “he’s trying to win this with a bomb.” Oh, man. We only need a single. Relax, Max. He works the count full. He is in the situation every kid dreams of. Bases loaded, full count, the game can be won with a hit. He hit it. A MILE! I’m dying AND living at the same time. I think I’m going into cardiac arrest. For real. Maxwell just hit a walkoff grand slam, off of Joakim Soria, no less! I can’t believe, what I just saw!
Twitter was going into a complete meltdown. Keeping up was impossible. We’re still alive for the playoffs, even if just barely!
Then came the roller coaster last night that was nearly too much for me to handle. Yordano Ventura was taking the mound, and he was throwing fire. Again. Just like his first start, he was mowing guys down through five innings, and ran into trouble in the sixth. I’ll take that out of a young SP. He leaves the game with a 2-1 lead. Will Smith gets them out of this inning, but in the seventh, he and Tim Collins combine to blow the lead allowing three runs. I’m dying. Again. We’re losing to the Mariners, 3-2. Our team strength, the bullpen, is losing this game. Ugh. The offense comes through in the top of eighth! Maxwell leads off with a ground rule double into the LF corner. Ned has Escobar BUNT. (I’M DYING…holy SHIT I’m dying!) He gets the bunt down, right back to the pitcher, and Maxwell is out at third, on a good throw and tag. I’m really dying now. We are giving away outs, AGAIN! This is NOT smart baseball. A team, especially one in must-win mode, CANNOT give away outs WHEN LOSING. It’s not brilliant ANYTIME, but when losing?! This is a MUST WIN GAME?! Kill me now. We go from a runner in scoring position on second, that can run well, and no outs, to runner on first with one out. I’m hoping the talent can make something happen, in spite of Ned’s old school stupidity. Gordon rips a single to set up first and second with one out. Thank you, Gordo. Bonifacio comes up and squares to bunt. I’m looking through my house for a pistol. I’m going to pistol whip myself to sleep, so I don’t have to watch this. He bunts foul. I’m out of my mind. I can’t believe this is happening. Next pitch, Boni is swinging away, and rips a single to right field. Escobar scores, and Gordon goes 1st to 3rd. 3-3 game! Up comes Hosmer. The guy we want up. He quickly goes 0-2 count. Oh no. We have to take this lead back. Hosmer hits a grounder up the middle, Bonifacio is out at second, and on the turn, Nick Franklin throws a turd (Hallelujah!), and Hosmer is not only safe at first, but moves to second. Gordon scores. Tie game! Butler comes up, and is intentionally walked, to get to the red hot Salvador Perez. That may have been a gift, as Butler has not been hitting well. Eric Wedge and Ned Yost are displaying an epic battle of dumb. Perez singles to right, Hosmer scores and we are back in front by 2. Royals 5 – Mariners 3. We’re good. Right? No.
In comes Luke Hochevar. Papa Hoch. He’s been great this year. However, old starting pitcher version Hochevar took the mound. He starts the inning with a strikeout, but doesn’t look great in doing it. Then, serves up back-to-back jacks to Franklin Guttierez and Michael Saunders. Oh. My. Wow. 5-5. I can’t believe this. What the hell is going on out here? We can’t hold a lead for a half inning tonight!
To the top of the ninth! Lorenzo Cain leads off with a double. Yes! The rollercoaster is heading back up. Up comes Maxwell. He squares to bunt. Oh the humanity! Why didn’t I follow through with the pistol whipping? Then, my head explodes and I die………No wait. I didn’t. I just had one of those moments, where it felt so real, I thought it really happened. Then reality set back in. Ned is bunting with Maxwell. The guy that had a ground rule double in his last at bat. The guy that hit a walkoff grand slam to Cameron, MO, the day before. Bunt. BUNT! BUNT? He bunts foul. Looks COMPLETELY uncomfortable bunting. Please swing away now, Ned. He does, but the result is no better. Hits a chopper right back to the mound and is out, Cain stays at second. I’m convinced Ned killed his confidence in ordering the bunt, and threw off his chances in that at bat. Maybe I just “Ned hate” too much, though? Escobar lines out, Gordon is intentionally walked, and Bonifacio strikes out to kill the rally. Sad trombone. Then comes the bottom of the tenth. Francisley Bueno remains in after a good 9th. Kyle Seager crushes a 2-1 pitch to deep right center, and the ball is misplayed by Maxwell. (probably still ruined by Ned’s lack of confidence in him, what with that bunt thing) Seager on third, no outs. We. Are. Toast. G’night everyone. Of course, I still can’t REALLY pull myself away from this game. This is crack, and I’m an addict. Kendry Morales is intentionally walked. Ok I get it. We need to strikeout the side. Bring on Holland!
It goes viral. So there’s that. Still, I can only feel like this is going to end so badly. Why are we not walking the bases loaded? Why first and third? A double play is still no good. At least not yet. We HAVE to get a K here. SO, Guttierez is the hitter. He whiffs. Maybe that’s the direction. But, Wade Davis? Davis comes through! K. 1 out. Runners still on the corners. Sweet. Intentionally walk Saunders, and bring in Holland!! No. Only part one. Davis remains in the game. Oh, MY. Wedge calls for a pinch hitter, Endy Chavez for rookie catcher, Mike Zunino. I’m scared to death. Not because of Endy Chavez. Still because of Wade Davis. Davis continues to impress getting Chavez to foul one off, look at a strike and foul another. 0-2. Then Chavez lines one to medium LF, the one place I can think…oh man, maybe a line out double play. Gordon sets up, makes the catch, and NAILS Seager at the plate for the 3rd out and his 17th OF assist! I’m about as fired up as I’ve ever been, ever for like anything, EVER!!! Teams continue to run on Gordon, and continue to get burned. Keep it up, other teams!
An epic call from Ryan Lefebvre, was UNBELIEVABLE!
The 11th inning is eventless. Probably a good thing. My heart needs to resume a regular rhythm.
To the 12th. Gordon leads off with a walk. MLB average, 44% of the time, a lead off walk comes around to score. Let’s be part of the 44. Bonifacio to the plate, to BUNT. I’m crying real tears. Like a baby. More bunts. For comparison. 41% of the time, a runner on second, with one out scores. We just hurt our chances of scoring a run. Not only that, we move Gordon to second, and now first is open for Hosmer. If I’m Wedge, I’m putting Hosmer on every time, and pitching to Giovatella (In via pinch hitter for Getz as a Butler pinch runner), playing for the double play to end the inning. But, like mentioned earlier, Wedge and Yost are in an epic battle of who’s the biggest and best Dummy. They pitch to Hosmer, and get him to pop out foul. Great. Runner at second and two outs. #Bunts. Now to the plate, Johnny Giovatella, Ned’s least favorite person ever. At least it appears that way. He works the biggest walk of his career. Salvy, a grown ass man, come up and delivers, again. What a stud. He clobbers a double to left, Gordon scores, Giovatella tries to follow, but is out at the plate. We have the lead back though, and #DirtySouth ready to go. We think. He’s been up to warm two other times. Skynyrd starts to play in my head. It always does when Holland comes on to pitch. I’m crazy. Holland doesn’t look right. He isn’t finishing with his shoulder. Missing high and out. HE walks the first two batters. I’m dying, again. This is happening. This game just isn’t meant to be. Up comes Morales. Holland starts to finish like the normal Holland. Maybe the up and down in the pen messed him up? He gets Morales to fly out, then in classic Holland fashion, blows away Guttierez and Saunders, the M’s heroes, from the eighth inning. Ball game.
We’re still alive. Even if just barely.
More than not, I am living with this season. Even through the losses. Thank you Royals, for giving this to us. This fan base needed it.
This isn’t over, though.
Just. Keep. Winning.
I want to live. With wins.