It’s been 30 years since the Kansas City Royals won their only World Series title by defeating I-70 and intrastate rival St. Louis.
Maybe we’ll come full circle in October and the two Show-Me State combatants will square off again.
A lot has happened in those 30 years, much of it good for the Cardinals and most of it bad for the Royals. But now we’re back to where it all started between the teams.
They hook up for their second three-game series of 2015 at the holy cathedral of baseball, Busch Stadium III. The Cardinals have been extraordinary at home this year, on pace to win 60 games. Both teams come in leading their respective divisions and except for a few blips, have been two of the top three teams in baseball, much to the chagrin of big-market teams New York and Los Angeles, who consider baseball in the heartland more like hickball.
In the earlier series in the City of Barbecue, the Royals parlayed the home-field advantage to win two of three.
However, this is a stripped-down version of the Cardinals that will try to hold off the surging-again Royals. Gone is star pitcher Adam Wainwright, not to mention RBI machine Matt Holliday, lumbering but sometimes dangerous first baseman Matt Adams and set-up man Jordan Walden. Workhorse pitcher Lance Lynn may soon join them as there’s concerns about his well-being.
Yet, they forge on with baseball’s best record, keeping this together with Band-Aids and bailing wire. A player goes down and manager Mike Metheny just plugs in another. How long the Cardinals can keep playing .650 baseball is up for speculation, but at some point missing so many stars will eventually catch up to them.
Meanwhile, the Royals already have endured their litany of injuries. They lost outfielder Alex Rios for six weeks, and pitchers Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas and Greg Holland have missed significant time.
But other than Duffy, the others are back and soon the Royals are going to add what I believe will be a trump card in pitcher Kris Medlen. I loved him when he was with the Braves, but he’s had a couple of Tommy John surgeries. If the Royals can somehow get him healthy, he might be the missing piece to the puzzle. He was one of baseball’s best pitchers during his cameo appearances with Atlanta, which gave up on him because he simply couldn’t be counted on health-wise.
These teams are similar from the standpoint they don’t hit a lot of home runs. They were the bottom two teams last year, though they have muscled up a bit more this year. Still, they’re not teams that are going to go all Harvey Wallbanger and knock the ball out of the park with consistency.
Pitching is the name of the game, which is a reason I’d be shocked if you see a lot of runs scored in the three games. The Cardinals have had the best starting pitching in baseball, even with their numbers taking a recent hit though with an 11-run game in Colorado, though everybody scores runs in the thin air of Mile High. The Royals have the best bullpen in baseball, which for much of the season has propped up a questionable starting staff. However in this current four-game winning streak, Kansas City’s starters have been lights-out, which has given the bullpen time to refuel after being gassed for quite a stretch after Duffy and Guthrie delivered some short clunkers that taxed it.
Of course Busch III is going to be blood red and don’t expect to see much Royal blue in the stands like you did when they played in Chicago, which became Kansas City East.
I’m just hoping this won’t be the final series between the teams. Can you say World Series?