KC Royals Believe! Miracle wildcard victory changes teams’ perspective


MARCH 2015 – It was not on the magnitude of walking on water, raising the dead, bringing sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, but the Kansas City Royals’ victory in the wildcard game would have to be unequivocally labeled a sports miracle.

That miraculous triumph also changed the perspective of the franchise going into this season.Let’s relive that unbelievable comeback one more time. Royals’ fans could relive it a million times.

The Royals trailed Oakland by four runs entering the eighth and Athletics ace left-hander Jon Lester was pitching. Lester has a 9-3 record with a 1.84 ERA in 13 career starts against the Royals. The A’s obtained him a July trade with Boston for moments like this. The probability of the Royals’ winning at that point was 4.4 percent.

But win they did, 9-8 in 12 innings. They scored three runs in the eighth, which included RBI singles by Lorenzo Cain, Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer to pull within one run. They tied it in the ninth when pinch runner Jarrod Dyson brazenly stole third and scored on Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly

In the 12th the A’s regained the advantage with former Royal Alberto Callaspo driving in a run. In the bottom of the inning, Hosmer tripled with one out and scored on Christian Colon’s infield single to tie it. Colon stole second with two out, the Royals’ seventh steal, and scored on Salvador Perez’s single. Perez was 0-for-5, striking out twice, before that at-bat, when he pulled a pitch outside of the strike zone down the third base line.

Royals Report“I spent all winter long trying to figure out what clicked in the eighth inning of the wild card game when we were down four runs against a guy (Lester) we had never beaten,” Royals manager Ned Yost said in spring training. “It finally took me about until three weeks ago to figure it out. They believed. They believed they could do it. They believed in each other. And the rest is history. You know that’s always the last little thing that gets you over the hump is when a team finally believes because in belief it’s black or white.

“You either believe or you don’t believe. You can try to believe, but that doesn’t work until you have total belief in your teammates and your ability and it was a definite point and time and you could see it. And the rest was history. They stood up under the most glaring spotlights and the most pressure they could have and they performed quite admirably.”

Yost said he would have considered 2015 a “wasted” season if the Royals were one-and-done in the playoffs. After beating the A’s, they swept the Los Angeles Angels and the Baltimore Orioles and advanced to Game 7 of the World Series before falling 3-2.

A Wall Street Journal headline read before the ALCS series with Baltimore: “Ned Yost and Buck Showalter: Dunce and the Chessmaster.” Yost certainly looked like the dunce in the wildcard game, when in a questionable move he brought in rookie starter Yordano Ventura to replace James Shields. Ventura promptly served up a three-run homer to Brandon Moss to put the Royals in a huge deficit.

After sweeping Showalter’s Orioles, Yost became a genius.

There was another play that went largely unnoticed in the wildcard victory. A’s catcher Geovany Soto, who started because of his strong arm and the belief he could shut down the Royals’ running attack, injured his thumb in the first inning tagging out Homer and left after only one at-bat. With Soto replaced by Derek Norris, the Royals ran wild.

Omit that victory and the Royals enter this season as a second-place finisher to Detroit in the American League Central and omitted after one playoff game, their first postseason appearance in 29 years. Instead, they are American League champions.

“There is a swagger in the clubhouse, a confidence,” Yost said. “They are going about their spring training work as usual, but the swagger is there.”

He said he expects Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios to aptly fill the holes left by free agents Billy Butler and Nori Aoki leaving.

“Our bullpen is good as there is in baseball,” Yost said. “Our starting pitching is very, very solid and our defense is as good as there is in baseball. And with a lot of speed, we have a lot of ways to beat you.”

Yost believes. The Royals believe.

Article by Alan Eskew

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