"At the bitter end?
Salt and liquid blend,
From the corner of my eyes.
All the miles wrecked?
Every broken stair?
Always searching, always blind.
Never fear! No, never fear!
Never fear! No, never fear!
So let your heart hold fast!
For this soon shall pass!
There's another hill ahead ..."
The Only Two Numbers That Matter:
Royals Magic Number For a Playoff Spot: 3.
Royals Magic Number For a Division Title: 7.
Standings As I Post:
Tigers +1 ½ on Royals.
Royals +½ on A’s.
Royals +3 on Mariners
Royals +3 ½ on Indians
Action Completed Earlier Today:
* at Tigers 6, White Sox 1. I listened to most of this game on the White Sox radio broadcast. Verlander was lights out today. This was a tie game entering the seventh, and it was 3-1 entering the eighth. Today it was Chicago’s bullpen that imploded. It happens.
* Angels 5, at A’s 4. I still think Oakland will make it – only one team in the wildcard era has blown a lead of three games, with five to play. (We’ll get to them in a moment.) But that belief is based more on the Mariners having to play Anaheim for its last four, and the A’s getting Texas.
Quick Side Note:
Congrats to my co-worker Joe, on the birth of his son Jacob this morning, at approximately 11am. The lil' guy came a day early. (Pause). See! Even infants want to be alive for what tomorrow (the late, great harry caray voice) might be! Could be! (Not quite yet is!)
In all seriousness, congrats, and all the best to you, the wife, and Jacob's brother and sister.
About Last Night:
And to think, six months ago, the single biggest complaint of the Dayton Moore Era (other than, you know, seven playoff-less seasons) was that the Royals couldn’t develop a dominant starter of their own. They had to go out and trade for a rotation, at the cost of the best prospect in the farm system.
I love it when the script gets flipped sometimes.
Last night, Yordana Ventura officially put that notion to rest, by throwing seven scoreless innings, to go with Danny Duffy’s six scoreless innings the night before. That’s thirteen scoreless innings (out of eighteen) by the home grown starters, and over the last four games, Royals starters have allowed five runs – three on Saturday by James Shields (only two earned), two on Sunday by Jeremy Guthrie (only one earned).
Championship caliber teams reveal themselves, when their backs are up against it. After Saturday, the Royals had zero margin for error. In the span of four days, they’d gone from tied for first, to three back. They’d gotten their brains bashed in Friday night, lost one of the most maddening, frustrating games of the season on Saturday, and if we’re being honest here, there weren’t too many of us entering Sunday feeling confident about this.
I even texted my cousin on Saturday during the game, as Ned Yost was being Ned Yost, and I flat out asked her – did you and Craig curse at the television regarding Ned that year, as often as I am today?
Her response? “Who’s Ned Yost? We only recognize Dale Sveum as our manager (from that season).” I’m taking that as a “oh hell yes we did”.
The last three days, the Royals have been up against it. And if – and I will grant you, "if"? Is almost here, possibly as soon as tomorrow night – if the Royals make it to the last day of September and beyond, I think the moment I’ll look back on, as the defining moment of the march, was Nori Aoki’s triple in the bottom of the sixth.
With all due respect to Pete “For President” Stoyanovich, that hit did save the season.
And this season needed to be saved.
That triple drove in two, put the Royals up 4-2, overcame Mike Moustakis' indefensible handling of the cutoff throw, and ensured the best 7th-8th-9th inning combination in baseball, was in business. And they took care of business, shutting the Tigers out the last three innings. Then Danny Duffy and The World’s Second Greatest Threesome shut out the Indians for nine innings. Then Yordano Ventura shut out the Indians for seven more, before Scott Downs** performed like Scott Downs, and the scoreless streak ended in the bottom of the eighth, at 19 innings.
Think about that. With the damned season hanging in the balance, the Royals staff – which was the punching bag of the sport for pretty much the entire last two decades – threw NINETEEN straight scoreless innings! I don’t claim to be smart, and I don’t claim to be sober, but it seems to me that if the other team doesn’t score?
You’re not going to lose.
The Royals are getting close. It’s beyond awesome they’re playing their best ball of the season when they need it the most. (Even if momentum is overrated.)
But they’re not there yet.
Ask Dayton Moore's former (and future?) employer, if being close is good enough.
Two years ago, the Atlanta Braves led the St. Louis Cardinals by three games, with five to play, for the one (and only) wildcard spot. They – like the Royals today – were a 99.6% lock to make the playoffs. Or to put it another way, the Cardinals had a 0.4% chance, of playing a week later.
Four weeks later, they were World Series Champions.
The Braves closed 0-5. The Cardinals closed 4-1. They then upset the Phillies (who won 102 games) in five, pounded Bernie's Brew Crew in six, and won an epic World Series over the Rangers.
It can be done.
But damn folks, if this Royals / Jays winning on the same night thing continues for one more night?
Tomorrow might be the day, we’ll be telling our grandkids about, for the rest of our lives.
And considering most of you loyal readers and friends who are reading this, don't have a kid over the age of ten?
That's how epic, tomorrow might be.
True Story Time!
I was emailing back and forth with “The Voice of Reason” during the Sox / Tigers game today, and at one point, the Royals magic numbers came up, and I typed “It could be 1/6 before we go to sleep tonight.”
I didn’t even realize it, until after I typed the number.
That is what is at stake tonight.
And you’re goddamned right, there were a few tears in my eyes, simply seeing that number.
Because if 1 makes me a lil’ verklempt?
What the hell is 0 going to do?
Current Scores As I Hit The Preview Section:
* Mariners 0, Blue Jays 0, Bottom 8.
* Royals 1, Chief Wahoos 3, Top 5.
Tonight’s Games That Matter:
* Mariners at Blue Jays, 6:07pm CT. For Seattle, this is almost it. Their margin for error is almost zero. Taijuan Walker (2-2, 3.00) takes the mound for the Mariners, and judging by the current score, he's delivering the performance of a lifetime so far. Mark Buehrle (12-10, 3.53) has thankfully been every bit his equal so far. Let's just hope for some late-game magic here for the Jays.
* Royals at Indians, 6:05pm CT. For the Fighting Braves of the Cuyahoga, this is it. It's win, or shut down the reservation. Their elimination number is uno for everything. One Royals / A's / Mariners win, and it's Bizarro Little Big Horn for them. They're throwing Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.06) at the Boyz N Blue tonight. We're countering with Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.59), who has been rocked like a, uuh, rocker the last three outings, sporting a healthy 9.00 ERA over that span, including Friday night's debacle against Detroit.
"My Special Little Guy" turns seven in a few months. I was eight the last time the Royals reached the playoffs. I honestly don't remember 1985, or 1984.
I honestly think part of the reason I don't remember it, is because postseason baseball was routine in the first eight, nine years of my life here. The Royals made the playoffs six of the first eight years I was alive.
They haven't made a single one, in the last (nearly) thirty years, I've managed to keep breathing.
They weren't terrible right away. They finished two out of first in 1987. They had the third best record in all of baseball in 1989 (and missed the playoffs by seven games, damned Bash Brothers). The hype for 1990 still makes me cringe at the waste that season was. They were in it until mid-September in 1993, and were in prime playoff position when the strike hit in 1994. Even in 1995, after the August fire sale, I left the Ballpark in Arlington the night before Labor Day, after a Royals victory, that gave them a one game lead in the race to be the first AL Wildcard Team.
And then ... nothing, save for 2003.
My way of saying this: I'm not a parent. (It's ok -- even I thank God for that fact. My goodness gracious, can you imagine how screwed up a kid of mine would be?) But those of you who read this that are, please -- don't let your kids, be us in the 1980s. Don't let them take this for granted. Don't let them think this is routine, this is something that happens on an usual basis.
Because it doesn't.
So let your heart hold fast. Because this (stress) soon shall pass. Hopefully -- and let's all pray to God; every God there ever was, there ever is, there ever will be, and the universe entire -- hopefully, this (stress) passes tomorrow night.
But get ready. Because there's another hill ahead.
Scores At Time Of Posting:
Toronto leads 1-0, Top 9.
Royals lead 4-3, Top 5.