Royals Rally: Now In Position to Take the Crown

hi-res-59333ad1ffd140e54972dfb0a3d24a27_crop_north (via Bleacher Report)

 

A fairy tale postseason for Daniel Murphy took a negative turn when he did not hit a home run in his 7th straight postseason game earlier in this World Series, and took another, more drastic one when he made an error on what seemed to be a routine ground ball hit by Eric Hosmer in the top of the 8th inning that allowed the Royals to score 3 runs in the frame and take Game 4 by a score of 5-3. The late comeback was the Royals’ 7th out of their 10 wins this postseason, including 6 when down by multiple runs, a postseason record. 

“What they did tonight is what they’ve been doing the whole playoffs,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s a group of guys that have the utmost confidence in themselves. I don’t think at any point these guys thought that they were going to lose tonight,” he said.

Game 5 is tonight, with the Royals 1 win away from their first World Series championship in 30 years, and they hope to ride the hot arm of reeling right hander Edison Volquez. Volquez returned to the team on Saturday after a trip to the Dominican Republic to be with his family after his father’s death on the morning on Game 1. The pitcher said he knew his father would be proud of him for pitching tonight, and the municipality of Kansas City would be especially proud of him and the team with a World Series victory tonight.

New York Dreams: Do the Mets Need a Miracle?

As the World Series shifts to New York after the Royals took both games at home to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the 2015 World Series, the mood in the Mets clubhouse is much different than it was just a week ago. After a Game 2 effort that included but 2 weak hits whose combined speed wouldn’t warrant a speeding ticket, they now know just why the Royals dealt 3 left handed pitching prospects to the Reds for Johnny Cueto and what makes him so dominant. Cueto’s complete game, 2 hit effort featured just 4 strikeouts and 3 walks on 122 pitches; only 70 of which were strikes.

 

What do these numbers mean? They mean that Cueto was excellent, but not his normal dominant self. In fact, he was in some trouble in the middle sections of the game, in which he allowed his lone run of the evening on a cue-shot single by Lucas Duda in the top of the 4th that scored Daniel Murphy. This was immediately followed by 1-2-3 innings in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, showing the mindset Cueto locked himself into while feeding off of the raucous 41,000+ fans in attendance. After asking manager Ned Yost for permission to pitch the final inning, Cueto became the first Dominican born pitcher to toss a complete game in the World Series, and the first player in general to accomplish the feat with 2 or less runs allowed since Greg Maddux in 1995. When you find your name mentioned alongside that of Maddux, you know you’re in some historic company.

 

When the series returns to Citi Field, the Mets must do one thing better and one thing only: HIT THE BALL. The pitching will be back to its normal, dominant self, with Noah Syndergaard toeing the rubber (and we all know what he usually does), but offense must be of paramount importance. After an 11 hit performance in Game 1, the Mets’ bats went quiet. With Yordano Ventura throwing for the opposition, the Mets hitters have to find a way to make Ventura throw extra pitches by employing the Royals strategy for Game 2; fouling off pitches as a strategy. They fouled off 24 of Jacob deGrom’s 95 pitches, forcing him to exit early. The backside of the Royals bullpen is their obvious strength, so Terry Collins’ club has to try and attack Ventura and get to the bullpen as early as possible in Game 3.

 

Royals Return: This Time, It’s Personal

 

After a 2014 season that ended in a heart breaking 3-2 loss in Game 7 to the perennial front runner San Fransisco Giants, the Royals knew they would have an opportunity to return to baseball’s highest stage in 2015. The only major losses to free agency in the ensuing offseason were pitcher James Shields, who declined a qualifying offer from the AL Champs to sign with San Diego (the Royals received a compensation pick for this), DH Billy Butler, who was drafted by KC with their 1st pick in the 2004 Draft and signed a tender with the Athletics, and Nori Aoki, who jumped ship for a chance at a repeat with the Giants.

The core of the lineup remained the same entering the 2015 campaign, with Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez all coming off of the best seasons of their careers in the previous year. Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar were secondary producers for the club, but all contributed solid numbers throughout the season and in Gordon’s pace, a Gold Glove winning defensive effort.

The notable offseason acquisitions for the reigning AL Champions included designated hitter Kendrys Morales, OF Alex Rios, starting pitcher Edinson Volqez, and reliever Kris Medlen. Morales turned out a spectacular 2015 campaign, drubbing a .290 batting average and leading the squad with 106 RBI AND 22 HR. His 58 walks and 103 strikeouts were both second behind Eric Hosmer in both categories. Volquez also turned out to be a productive pickup, tying Yordano Ventura for the team lead in wins with 13 while leading all Royals pitchers with 33 games started, 200.1 IP, and finished one strikeout behind the flame throwing Ventura for the team lead in K with 155. Rios and Medlen both suffered through injuries, but were productive in their limited time in the regular season and both made the postseason roster.

2015 was a dominant season for a KC squad which won their division by 12 games over the Twins. The Royals has a winning record against every American League Team except the Yankees (2-4), Houston (2-4), Toronto (3-4), and the Rangers (3-4); all playoff teams.

The postseason kicked off with a challenge right away: a 3-2, hard fought series victory over the new kids on the block, the Astros. After a furious comeback to win Game 4 with 5 runs in the 8th inning and 2 more for insurance in the 9th to with the game 9-6, the momentum had all but swung in the Royals favor.

A matchup with another offensive firepower awaited KC in the Championship Series in the form of the volatile Toronto Blue Jays. The series featured every range of emotion from anger when both teams had multiple incidents that cause the benches to clear, a rarity in the playoffs to despair for the losing team, which happened to be Toronto after 6 games.

This 2015 Kansas City Royals team is one that is marked by its chemistry, with the entire productive core returning from their 2014 World Series adventure, and consistently getting better as the years progress. After winning only 75 games in 2013 and 86 last year, this year’s 95 wins are the most for the club since a 97 win season in 1980, ironically losing in the World Series to the Phillies that year in 6 games.

Ned Yost and his team have many questions to answer in their second trip to the World Series in as many years. Is this the year they lift the Commissioner’s Trophy after being so close? Will they be able to defeat the Mets and their dominant pitching? Who will step up and produce in clutch situations? These will all be answered in two weeks time, and the Royals hope they can go golfing this summer with heavy hands, weighed down by championship rings.