Royal Rewind: Re-watching the 2014 Wildcard GameFollow @RoyalsBlue_com
It’s December, and my baseball withdrawals are in full swing. I was having a bit of anxiety, so I decided to re-watch the 2014 Wildcard game. Let’s go back, shall we?
This was the game that Kansas City fans have dreamed of for a very, very long time. For the first time in 29 tedious years, there was finally new life in the Royals fan base. They fought so hard to get here, and by the end of the night, they’d either move on to the ALDS, or they’d go home. Naturally, both teams would have their aces on the mound.
James Shields had an up and down regular season in 2014. Coming off of a 2.31 ERA in September, Kansas City would need him to continue his success if they had a glimmer of hope at beating the mighty Jon Lester. Shields came out firing as he sat down A’s leadoff hitter Coco Crisp on a swinging strikeout. James Shields then went from “firing right out of the gate” to “his first inning woes are back” in the matter of minutes. Brandon Moss put a Shields changeup in the visitors bullpen to give the A’s a 2-0 edge in the first inning. The Kansas City ace finally got a grip on things around the fourth inning, and by that time he was pounding the zone, handing the A’s strike after strike.
Before even stepping to the plate, Kansas City found themselves in a 2-0 hole. Against Lester, that deficit might as well have been insurmountable. The Royals looked at that 2-0 lead that the A’s had and said something to the effect of, “We’ll see your 2-0 lead and call: 3-2.” KC took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third inning on RBIs by Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer to add to Billy Butler’s RBI-single in the first inning.
By the sixth, it appeared that Shields had settled into a groove. He then allowed a leadoff single to Sam Fuld, and walked Josh Donaldson to put two on with no outs. Ned Yost decided to pull the plug on his ace, which was understandable, but what happened next raised many questions. Yost brought in rookie starter Yordano Ventura. It’s not that bringing the rookie in for a relief appearance was a bad idea. It’s that bringing the rookie in for a relief appearance in the middle of an inning that rubs people the wrong way. The sixth inning went about how most of us expected it to: Ventura got shelled, and it took the momentum of the game completely away from Kansas City. Yost took Yordano out for the first component of HDH: Kelvin Herrera. With the score 6-3, and the game quickly spinning out of control, the A’s would get one more run against Herrera (credited to Ventura) and would look to move on to the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels.
With the entire fan base in shambles with their impending doom of another heartbreak, not everyone had given up hope. The Royals didn’t. In the sixth and seventh inning, Kansas City came out lifeless and flat. Things turned around in the eighth inning: They didn’t tie up the game, but they helped their cause: Kansas City scored one run on a Billy Butler RBI-single to right field, and another on a double steal featuring Terrance Gore and Eric Hosmer. The Royals were down by one run in the ninth. Ned Yost, bless his heart, pinch-hit Josh Willingham for Mike Moustakas, and Willingham came through with a single. Sitting in front of the television, with my head in my hands, I mumbled, “Don’t do this to me. Don’t fool me, Royals. Don’t get my hopes up.” They didn’t. Jarrod Dyson was sent in to run for Willingham, and in typical Dyson-style, he was able to get himself, not only in scoring position, but to third base. What happened after that nearly made my heart quit beating: Nori Aoki hit a sacrifice fly to score Dyson from third base to tie the ballgame at seven.
Two and a half innings later, that feeling of impending doom was back. The A’s had taken an 8-7 lead on an Alberto Callaspo RBI-single. This was the moment that I knew that it was over. About ten minutes later, I knew that what I previously thought I knew wasn’t true at all. Lorenzo Cain grounded out to open the bottom of the twelfth, which brought up Eric Hosmer with nobody on. Eric Hosmer jolted a pitch to deep center field, and found himself standing on third base with one out and Christian Colon up to bat. Colon reached on an infield single to tie the game at eight apiece. After Alex Gordon fouled out to third base, Colon stole second base. With a runner in scoring position, the season rested on Salvador Perez. In his current “swing at everything” condition, that idea didn’t exactly give me a fuzzy feeling. As I’ve learned before, everything that I thought I knew previously, usually doesn’t apply in these type of situations. Salvador Perez reached out and snuck a ball right past Josh Donaldson to knock in Christian Colon, and the winning run. It was that moment that I realized that the Royals are in for a wild, wild ride this offseason. What happened in this game was magical, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the postseason has in store for us.
Fast Forward to Present
I remember this game like it was yesterday. I remember the thoughts and emotions that went through my head. I remember the tears welling up in my eyes. First the tears of defeat, and then the tears of learning that I would be attending my first ever Royals playoff game. The month of October was something that I’ll never forget. It’s crazy now to think about how different everything is. Next year, there will be no Billy Butler to knock in game-tying RBIs. There will be no James Shields to deliver meaningful strikeouts in a playoff game. There’s also a good chance that there will be no Nori Aoki sacrifice bunts. The 2015 season is going to feel so different, in more ways than one. Part of me is ready to move on, but part of me is still clinging to 2014, and that magical season that the Royals were able to provide us with.
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