Royals Crown Victory Over A's

Destiny’s cruel touch finally met its match on Tuesday evening as the Kansas City Royals ended a 29-year old playoff drought with an improbable victory over the Oakland Athletics. The matchup was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel. It was supposed to be low-scoring. It turned out to be a matchup of Athletic power versus Royal speed. And speed won because “that’s what speed do.”

Jon Lester held a playoff ERA of just a miniscule 2.11. He was kryptonite to playoff hitters. They Royals were 9th in the American League in runs scored. And for the first few innings, Royals hitters hung in there. They scored three runs in the first three innings, and things were looking good. Then Lester retired 12 of the next 13 batters and the after the 7th inning, the Royals found themselves down 7-3. Down four runs with only two innings left? For such a run-starved team as the Royals, the odds looked nearly insurmountable.

And then Alcides Escobar led off the 8th inning with a single. Then the Royals started the offensive surge like most of their offensive surges started this year: Escobar stole 2nd base. Another single by Lorenzo Cain, and then another stolen base. Two walks, a single and 2 more stolen bases later, and the Royals had scored 3 runs to pull within one run. The Royals had life.

Jon Lester’s night ended by giving up six earned runs in 7.1 innings – his worst playoff outing of his sterling career.

Despite a shaky 9th inning, the Royals entered the bottom of the 9th inning still trailing by only one run. Pinch-hitter Josh Willingham singled to lead off the innings. Jarrod Dyson ran for Willingham and was sacrificed to second, and then he stole third base. He scored on a deep fly ball by Nori Aoki to send the game into extra innings, tied 7-7.

For Royals fans, this 7-run outburst was unfamiliar; however, how it happened was something that Royals fans were used to. The Royals had been using their speed to their advantage more lately to win some close ball games. But still, seven runs!

Fate? Destiny? Star-Alignments? Maybe some strange voodoo seemed to believe that the Royals should win this one.

Royals rookie Brandon Finnegan was brought in to start the 10th innings. He was the Royal pitcher with the most recent world series experience! He led TCU to the college world series just three short months ago. Finnegan had pitched seven innings in the major leagues this year. Seven. Not too many managers have the gumption to send their rookie to the mound in extra innings, but despite previous questionable managerial decisions, that move may have turned out to be Ned Yost’s salvation. Finnegan dominated the A’s veteran A’s lineup for 2.1 innings.

Veteran Jason Frasor was brought in to finish up the 12th inning with a man on 2nd base.. A wild pitch and sloppy single by Alberto Callaspo brought the go-ahead run across the plate, and again, the Royals chances of winning the game looked bleak.

A stunned crowd saw Lorenzo Cain ground out to start the bottom of the 12th inning. Hopes were waning. Then, after battling with A’s reliever Dan Otero, Eric Hosmer launched a ball that hit the top of the wall in left-center field. Hosmer raced to third base. The tying run was only 90 feet away. With a depleted bench, Yost was forced to allow rookie Christian Colon approach the plate. Colon had just 45 major-league at-bats coming into the game. In true Royals fashion, he chopped a ball off the hard dirt in front of home plate. As the ball bounced high off the unyielding dirt, Eric Hosmer raced home with the tying run! Colon was safe at first.

Fernando Abad was brought in to face Alex Gordon. Abad threw just one pitch and retired Gordon on a popup to 3rd basemen Josh Donaldson in foul territory. Two outs.

Salvador Perez stepped up to the plate. Perez was 0-5 on the day with two strikeouts. None of his previous at-bats had given Royals fans any true hope for victory. The game looked like it would head into the thirteenth inning. But on a 2-2 pitch that was at least a foot outside, Perez reached his bat out and slapped destiny in the face with a hard hit down the left-field line. Colon sprinted home. And the crowd erupted. The Royals dugout emptied. And a celebration of excitement, euphoria, and relief echoed across the world as Royals fans finally got a taste of postseason victory.

These Royals were built for the playoffs. With their mix of strong pitching, top-notch speed, gold glove defense, and a will to win, these Royals eye the Los Angeles Angels as their next speed bump on the road to destiny.

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