So this is it. The 177th and final game of the baseball season, no matter what happens tonight.
Raise your hand if you thought at the start of the season that the Kansas City Royals would be playing in the game to determine the champion of the world.
You’re lying if you did. You know it and I know it.
Nobody, I mean nobody, saw all this wonderful, wild and wacky craziness coming. The Royals being here instead of the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox? Instead of the Evil Empire New York Yankees and their bloated payroll that nearly triples their own? The Los Angeles Angels and their best record in baseball? Even Billy Beane and Oakland’s Moneyball?
Nope, nope, nope and nope.
This is winner take all, may the best team on this particular night triumph. As ESPN’s John Kruk said, “Joe Whole Staff,” will be employed, meaning any pitcher on the roster could be pressed into duty.
The Royals send out Jeremy Guthrie, “J Guts” as master of the malaprop Rex Hudler calls him. The Giants counter with Tim Hudson, who probably is making a stop at the Fountain of Youth as this could very well be the last game he ever pitches considering he’s past retirement age.
My feeling is that neither will figure in the decision. Let the bullpens battle this one out. That’s what the Series was supposed to be about anyway, though only one of the six games so far actually has been a hand-wringer. The Giants won all three of their games in decisive fashion, the Royals enjoyed two blowouts, the only change from the script coming in Game 3 when Kansas City held on for a 3-2 victory.
You just hope the Royals didn’t exhaust all their offense in peppering the Giants 10-0 in Game 6. They clubbed Giants pitching for 12 hits in the first four innings alone, including a variety of nubbers and bleeders mixed in with some rockets that rattled around the Kauffman Stadium walls. Only Mike Moustakas left the park, that being the cherry on top as it was the game’s final run.
Kauffman Stadium will be up for grabs and the place will be maddening from the opening pitch. You really hope Guthrie can get through the first inning unscathed and then the Royals need to break out. They really haven’t played Royals baseball per se, as the stolen base has been long forgotten after vaulting the team into this position. Kansas City needs to apply early pressure and then get the game to the rested Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. That has been the successful formula all year, so why mess with a good thing now?
History is on the Royals’ side. Teams returning home down 3-2 more often than not — I’d call 80 percent a good indicator — win the last two. Kansas City did it in 1985 when it came back from St. Louis to win Game 6 in dramatic fashion and then Game 7 in a blowout.
I’ve heard a lot of people say they hope the Royals can win in walk-off fashion. Not me. I want to see a beatdown of 1985 Game 7 proportions. I want the party to start in the fifth inning and continue on the rest of the game and on well into the night. I want no stress, a game just like last night.
No matter what happens in Game 7, the Royals have won back the hearts of their fans. And given the young nucleus of the team, they could be set up for years to come.