NEW YORK — The Royals are as resilient and relentless as they come, and now they are the world champions of baseball.
This small-market team with an enormous heart won its first World Series in exactly 30 years by virtue of clever baserunning, a bullpen that doesn’t give an inch and an offense that doesn’t ever quit. They seemed all but expired a few times this October, the most recent example coming late in Game 5 when the Mets‘ brilliant ace Matt Harvey raced out of the dugout to start the ninth inning and protect his shutout and two-run lead to chants of “Har-vey.”
Yet somehow, three innings later, the amazing Royals walked away with a 7-2, 12-inning victory and a World Series championship in five games over the Mets. It was typical of a team that never gives up the fight.
“We always feel like we’re in it. We never count ourselves out. We always find a way,” said Eric Hosmer, a hero for his memorable mad dash home to tie it in the ninth. “There really was no other way but for us to come back to win the World Series.”
Afterward, the visiting fans stayed to chant “Let’s go Royals,” and whooped it up in the Big Apple, celebrating some amazing feats over a team known as the Amazins. It was a wonderful moment for a most deserving team from a great and crazed baseball town.
Nothing fazes these upstart Royals, who played 2015 with a chip on their shoulder following a narrow, seven-game World Series defeat to the Giants in ’14, and a resolve that couldn’t be measured by Statcast or any other sabermetric tool. They’ve overcome all sorts of deficits in this postseason, but to score two ninth-inning runs against Harvey on a night he seemed impenetrable might be their best effort yet.
On the play of the game, a clever Hosmer dived head-first across home with the tying run after a broken-bat, one-hop grounder by Salvador Perez to third baseman David Wright and a late and wide throw by first baseman Lucas Duda, who looked like he had a chance to end the game. Instead, Hosmer played the hero.
“As soon as I left, I thought I should turn back. But it was too late,” Hosmer said.
But really, Hosmer, with the help of third-base coach Mike Jirschele, calculated that it was worth a gamble with Mets closer Jeurys Familia on the mound since hits and runs would be hard to come by. Last year, in Game 7, the Royals came up 90 feet short. This time, Hosmer made sure that didn’t happen. And it didn’t hurt that Duda’s throw was wide right.
“That took some balls for him to do what he did,” Duda said. “Down one out, with one out to go, that’d be the third out (and final out of the game). The way they run the bases, you can’t be shocked by anything you see. Even Hosmer would say that’s a bit reckless. But that’s kind of their game in a nutshell. Put pressure on the defense. They did that the entire series.”
It looked like Duda had a shot to get Hosmer, but the throw had to be a good one, despite comments suggesting it was an easy out. It wasn’t, even if Duda blamed himself.
“You’ve got to make the throw there,” Duda said. “There’s no excuse. That’s on me.”
Hosmer’s nifty gamble sent the game into extra innings, where the Royals always seem to hold an advantage due to their deep and excellent bullpen. Little-used Christian Colon lined a single over a drawn-in infield to score pinch runner Jarrod Dyson with the go-ahead run before the Royals poured it on, stunning the Queens crowd that had been chanting “Har-vey” throughout his gem, by scoring five runs in the 12th.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better hit from a better guy,” Royals star Lorenzo Cain said. “He hasn’t played in I don’t know how long.”
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) November 2, 2015
Harvey pitched a valiant and beautiful game, outdueling heroic Royals starter Edinson Volquez, who was pitching four days after learning of the death of his father Daniel at 63. Volquez went six solid innings, and it looked for a long time that it wasn’t going to be quite good enough.
But it is near to impossible to put these Royals away. They trailed the Astros 6-2 late in an elimination Game 4 of the ALDS before rallying. They came back against Blue Jays ace David Price in Game 2 of the ALCS. They never die easy, and they are a most deserving champion.
“We just continue to fight,” Cain said. “We never give up. We never quit.”
This time, they trailed 2-0 when Harvey walked Cain and allowed a run-scoring double to Hosmer to start the ninth. Suddenly, after doing nothing all night, the Royals put themselves in position.
“Matt Harvey pitched a great game. I guess we wore him down at the end,” said Cain, laughing. Even he seemed a bit surprised by this latest bit of magic against one of the game’s great pitchers.
A groundout advanced Hosmer to third, from where he started his mad and successful dash. He hesitated just a bit, then made a break for it as soon as David Wright turned to throw.
“I just decided it was an opportunity to score a run. That’s our motto, that’s our style,” Hosmer said.
The Royals, used to these sorts of heroics, erupted on the bench. The crowd, raucous throughout, sat in stunned silence. The World Series appeared assured of returning to Kansas City before the late improbable rally that has become all too commonplace for KC, which won its second title.
“We got outplayed,” said Wright, the classy Mets captain.
The Mets could look at a play here or there and convince themselves they should have won a couple or three more games — the Alex Gordon homer in Game 1, the Daniel Murphy error in Game 4 and the rally off Harvey (and wild run by Hosmer, who is no speed demon).
When octogenarian Royals scout Art Stewart was asked what he was thinking when he saw Hosmer take off, he answered honestly that he wished it were Jarrod Dyson, the speedster who would have made it easily. But this is a team that wins on guts and moxie and derring-do.
Stewart called the ninth inning a “miracle.” And, at the least, it certainly was amazing. Also amazing is that they continued to perform these minor miracles throughout their wonderful, magical year. And in the end, they made amends for missing out a year ago, by only 90 feet.
This Royals, a team picked to win 72 games by one national prognosticator, dominated the strong AL Central, then survived the Astros in the first round and outplayed a stacked Jays team in the ALCS before beating the Mets. The Royals’ great closer, Wade Davis, finished out his first World Series title by striking out beloved Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores on a fastball on the inside corner, just high enough.
Davis whipped his mitt into the air. After all the close calls, there was a certain amount of relief in the air, along with exultation for a job superbly done.