They really were the never-say-die Royals

By Steve Sell
November 02, 2015

C’mon, did you really think the Royals wouldn’t find a way to tie Game 5 of the World Series against Mets ace Matt Harvey Sunday night even though they were down two runs heading into the ninth inning and he was pitching like the reincarnate of Cy Young?

After all, what have you been watching for the last month, anyway?

The Royals had the Mets right where they wanted them. I think they intentionally looked like putty in Harvey’s hands for eight innings just so they could make this unfathomable script even more disbelieving.

Harvey had mowed down the Royals without a blip. Mets manager Terry Collins had made the decision to yank his wunderkind and bring on closer Jeurys Familia to seal the deal and send the Series back to Kansas City, where he’d have bazooka-throwers Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard armed and ready with fire coming out of their fingertips.

But Harvey went all Jack Morris on Collins, believing he could recreate the magic of the former Twins pitcher who went 10 shutout innings to win Game 7 against the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series. He told Collins there was no way he was coming out as he felt strong enough to finish and enhance his legacy.

As we all know by now, the Royals improbably — well, probable for them — scratched out two runs, with Eric Hosmer’s mad dash to home tying the game. There’s no doubt in my mind a good throw by Lucas Duda would have nailed him, but it looked like Nuke LaLoosh in “Bull Durham” where he hit the mascot. It was so far off line that Hosmer scored and you knew once it became a bullpen game it belonged to the Royals.

In the 12th inning, Christian Colon went from virtual unknown to a hero for life in the eyes of Royals fans by delivering the go-ahead hit. Later, Lorenzo Cain cleared the bases to blow it open and that left it to Wade Davis to strike out the side and turn Citi Field into a morgue except for the loyal Royals.

This entire playoff run was crazy, nuts, insane, surreal — just fill in your favorite adjective, it's all good. Seven times in the 16 games the Royals trailed by two runs and rallied to win. They trailed in all five games against the Mets and won three games when trailing in the eighth inning. 

Even without the late-game heroics, the bottom line is the Royals were the superior team in almost every phase of the game. There were no easy outs in their lineup — All-Star Alex Gordon was hitting eighth when the games were in Kansas City for goodness sakes — their defense was decidedly better than the Mets' shoddy play, especially on the infield, and, again, the Royals' bullpen was nothing short of remarkable. Lost in the game Sunday was the fact Kansas City's relievers threw six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and fanning six.

Guys like Gordon and Luke Hochevar were the ones I was most happy for. They endured some brutal years when they first arrived and probably wondered if the team would ever turn things around. But you could see signs in 2013, with 2014 the turning point. It was their goal from Day One this spring that they were going to complete the job they started last year, even if media types such as myself picked them fourth in their division because we thought they were a flash-in-the-pan and had caught lightning in a bottle.

Most of all, you had to be happy for Ned Yost. The guy had been toasted by every media type imaginable — I have no idea how many times I called for his head – but he stayed the course and never panicked. He believed and trusted his guys and they rewarded him with the ultimate prize.

Of course talk of a repeat already has started. Remember, though, Kansas City had only 12 players on the roster Sunday who played in the 2014 World Series. There's certainly going to be some turnover as the bank is going to be broken after making the World Series back-to-back and they won't be able afford everybody. There will be some new faces and some of the top free agents who never even gave the Royals a thought before might now have them near or at the top of their list.

But let's enjoy the present. The Royals gave their fans a lifetime of thrills and they also became America's darlings with their never-say-die heart. They'll certainly go down as one of the more remarkable stories in playoff and World Series history.