OK, this is borderlining on the surreal.
The Kansas City Royals’ breathless march to the World Series is gaining hundreds of thousands of new fans, as they have become the darlings of an adoring nation.
Everybody roots for the underdog. The Royals have been just that since they qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card entry and overcame a four-run deficit to the Teflon Jon, A’s lefty and vaunted Royals killer Jon Lester.
They followed that up with a stunning sweep of the team with the best record in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels. Two of those wins were of the cut-your-heart-out variety, as the Angels had nothing left but fumes in Game 3 as the Royals ran away and hid, their only low-stress game of the playoffs.
Just when you thought these cats had used up all nine of their lives, the Royals go into Baltimore and win a 10-inning game and then another when they score two runs in the ninth to break a 4-all tie.
How long can this continue? Remember, this is not a one-week wonder. Dating back to the regular season, they have won seven in a row and 12 of their last 15. Five of the seven wins in a row have been by two runs or less. This is a team that believes no deficit is too big to overcome and if it does fall behind, it shrugs its shoulders, rolls up the sleeves and blue-collars together a rally.
Lorenzo Cain, who a month ago could have walked through any airport unnoticed, now probably needs an army of bodyguards like rapper Fiddy Cent. His defensive play should earn him a Golden Glove, but he was so unknown before all of this the voters probably overlooked him since he plays next to sure-fire Gold Glover Alex Gordon.
Mike Moustakas, the favorite whipping post of Royals fans back when the team was 26-30 and in last place, is now the poster child for Moose Lodge. He has pounded four postseason homers after hitting only one in his final 161 regular-season at-bats.
The three-headed bullpen monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland hasn’t been given a fancy nickname yet — remember the Nasty Boys of the Cincinnati Reds some 20 years ago? — but you can bet the Royals’ PR department is feverishly working on it.
Eric Hosmer’s play is drumming up wonderment as to why he didn’t do this all year. Hosmer has been beating the baseball senseless, though he still comes out of his shoes on every swing and expands the strike zone.
Gordon hasn’t had a lot of hits, but the ones he’s had have been huge. A night after winning the first game against Baltimore, he wore the golden sombrero. But that won’t faze him, he’ll probably come right back tonight with a big game.
Baltimore knows it faces a daunting task, having to win four of the remaining five scheduled games. What the Orioles have going for them is the fact Kansas City has been lukewarm at home — just three games over .500 — because I believe the Royals try too hard before the home fans and also play somewhat distracted. But with three games in a row at The K, it’s hard to imagine that they can’t win at least one. If the series goes back to Camden Yards, the Royals should still have the lead.
The Royals are hoping the good/bad Jeremy Guthrie is the good Guthrie tonight. When he’s keeping the ball down, he keeps the Royals in the game. When it’s up, he’s throwing little more than batting practice.
I was a bit surprised the Royals opted for Guthrie over Jason Vargas in Game 3. I think I would have gone the other way. Obviously manager Ned Yost still doesn’t trust the uber-taleneted Danny Duffy, who has been banished to the bullpen. My guess is that Duffy’s mental makeup is behind his removal from the rotation, as he certainly has more stuff than Vargas or Guthrie.
Game 3 tonight will tell us a lot. A Royals win and they’ll more than likely close it out either Tuesday or Wednesday. A loss tonight and you have to wonder how many “uh ohs” you’ll hear from Royals fans.