Beyond the Bison: Born to Run

Doug Hendry, Editor-in-Chief

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This year’s Major League Baseball postseason featured a new wave of elite teams showcasing their talents. With the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets, we saw a pair of teams that hadn’t won a World Series in 30 and 29 years, respectively.

We know that the Royals, after making their second consecutive World Series appearance, are this year’s champions after defeating the Mets in five games. Their performance demonstrated not only that they are the best team in baseball but that this experienced team is actually fun to watch. Baseball fans are accustomed to watching the Cardinals, Giants, or Yankees during late October, but it’s nice to know we have a new contender taking control, one that fans can get behind.

The Royals utilized a strong bullpen and clutch hitting to fuel their second World Series championship. Like many recent MLB title winners, they are excellent at coming back after trailing throughout the game with late-game heroics. Even better, there was no way of telling who it would be on a given night; Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Kendrys Morales, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Ben Zobrist, and World Series MVP Salvador Perez all played vital roles.

That clutch hitting was featured front and center in game one when Gordon homered to center off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning to tie the game 4-4. Down to their second-to-last out, Gordon’s homer revitalized the home crowd, as Familia blew his first save since July.

This 14-inning bout that lasted more than five hours—the longest opener in World Series history—had it all. American League Championship Series (ALCS) MVP Escobar hit an inside-the-park home run in the first at-bat against Matt Harvey. There was even a brief power outage in the middle of the game.

Edinson Volquez demonstrated his poise in his six-inning stint, not finding out until after the game that his father had died in the Dominican Republic a few hours prior. On the greatest stage for the game, Volquez aided in giving Kansas City the 1-0 lead.

Game one set the tone for the remainder of the series, and the ratings proved that it would be one worth watching. The opener’s 10.5/18 rating was 31 percent higher than last year’s opener, and was the highest game one rating since 2009 between the Yankees and Phillies.

If people say that the Royals were lucky to win game one, they proved that they were the better team in a 7-1 triumph in game two to give them the two-game lead. Johnny Cueto pitched a sterling two-hit gem, putting to rest any talk about his recent struggles since being traded from Cincinnati.

Again, the Royals used a come-from-behind performance. A four-run fifth inning, propelled by Hosmer, put them ahead for good after falling behind in the inning prior.

Kansas City’s offense has been especially effective at making contact this season–Royals hitters missed on less than 20 percent of swings this year, best in the MLB. The opposing pitcher, Jacob deGrom, made hitters from the Dodgers and the Cubs whiff 58 times in his prior postseason starts, but managed only three swing and misses from the Royals.

The Royals had deGrom’s number in that fifth inning to propel them the rest of the way. After going 3-0 and allowing four runs through 20 innings in the first two rounds of the playoffs, deGrom allowed four runs and suffered the loss in just that one single inning of play.

New York took game three, but the win also fueled some of Kansas City’s passion and determination to win. Noah Syndergaard threw a 98 mph fastball near Escobar’s head to lead off the game, which warranted a lot of back-and-forth jarring with Syndergaard from the Royals bench. They couldn’t get back at Syndergaard in this game, but it sparked them to do so against the Mets in the remainder of the season.

Daniel Murphy, who homered in a record six straight games earlier in the postseason, went a combined 3-20 in the World Series with no home runs. The Mets postseason star was a big reason they fell in the series, and it was highlighted by a ghastly error in the eighth inning of game four. A slow grounder rolled just under his glove, allowing the Royals to tie the game on the play. Kansas City tacked on two more runs in the inning to give them the 5-3 win, another comeback win for the Royals.

With memories of Bill Buckner in their minds from the prior night’s game, the Mets just couldn’t do enough to slow the Royals’ ascent into baseball’s kingdom of champions.

If we thought this series couldn’t get any better in game five, we were wrong. Harvey kept the Royals scoreless through the first eight innings. After changing the mind of Terry Collins so that he could pitch in the ninth, Harvey finally broke, giving up a lead-off walk, followed by an RBI double by Hosmer, to knock him out of the game.

After tying the game later in the inning to force extra innings, the third blown save of the series for Familia, the Royal bats were finally awakened when scoring five runs in the 12th inning. All of that perseverance finally paid off in those final innings, pushing Kansas City to another World Series title.

The Mets entered with a stout pitching staff, but Kansas City showed its offensive firepower, particularly late in games. The Royals set a major league record with their sixth postseason comeback from at least two runs down. For the eighth time in their 11 postseason victories, Kansas City came back after trailing to win the ballgame.

And Kansas City deserved to win those games—they deserve to be crowned the Champions of Baseball.

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