The Royals won their first World Series in 30 years. We take a look at the Top 15 moments of 2015.
What a team. What a season. What a relief. Those words were spoken by Royals broadcaster, Ryan Lefebvre, shortly after Salvador Perez caught a foul ball on September 26, 2014 to clinch a wild-card spot, the Royals first postseason berth in 29 years. The rest is history. The Royals stormed through the American League playoffs, going 8-0 and winning the pennant. The Royals finished 90 feet away from their ultimate goal of winning a World Series, however, it was a successful year.
Pan to this year. This is a team who got off to an insane start by winning their first 7 games. 4 players were voted to start the All-Star Game in Cincinnati with 2 pitchers and Mike Moustakas winning the Final Vote. They dominated the American League Central on their way to a second consecutive pennant and a World Championship.
We now take a look back at the top 15 moments that led to the Royals World Series Title.
#15. Lorenzo Cain goes 2-for-3 for the American League in the All Star Game in Cincinnati.
Since 2003 home-field advantage in the World Series has gone to the team whose league wins the All Star Game. The Royals went into the All Star Game with 7 representatives, to include 4 starters. It was said that the voting of Royals fans would give home-field to the National League and the selection process became a joke for some fans.
One of the players elected was Lorenzo Cain. The 2014 ALCS MVP started in right field for Ned Yost and went 2-for-3 with a double and a RBI. Though he would lose out on the game’s MVP to Mike Trout, he warranted consideration.
Also, about the Royals fans losing home-field because of their passion? The American League won, 6-3, and would hold home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
#14. Kendrys Morales hits not one, not two, but three home runs in one game against Detroit.
When the Royals signed Kendrys Morales in the offseason many experts said the Royals had actually downgraded at DH. It’s not hard to see why because, in 2014, Royals DH, Billy Butler, had a better overall season than that of Morales. Dayton Moore, however, was chalking up the bad numbers for Morales in 2014 to the lack of Spring Training for Morales but did note that he hadn’t lost anything on his bat speed.
The results were great. Morales finished with over 100 runs batted in and hit 22 home runs. He hit three of them on September 20, 2015 in Detroit in a 10-3 Royals win. Morales became the first Royal since Danny Tartabull in 1991 to homer 3 times in 1 game. Morales finished 4-for-4 and also set a Royals record for most total bases in a game with 15. Morales finished with 3 home runs and a triple to help the Royals get closer to their first division title in 30 years.
#13. Royals walk-off against Tampa Bay on Paulo Orlando’s grand slam.
Paulo Orlando had been a career minor leaguer and finally got his chance in the majors at the age of 29. Orlando played a huge role in the success of the Royals for 2015, stepping up and filling in for Alex Gordon and Alex Rios during their stints on the disabled list.
On July 7th, Orlando stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the score tied at 5-5. Orlando then drove a pitch into the Royals bullpen and the Royals won the game, 9-5.
#12. Alex Gordon shows why he’s Superman.
If there was ever a team who lived the term “Defense wins championships” it was the 2015 Kansas City Royals and their leader, Alex Gordon.
On April 26th, Gordon showed that you didn’t even have to keep the ball in the field of play for him to get you out. On a foul ball into the left field stands, Alex went sprinting over towards the stands, jumped over the rail, and caught the ball 3 rows into the stands. He’s made a lot of great plays in his career, however, this may top them all.
#11. Did that just happen? Royals flash the leather as they beat the Indians.
Alcides Escobar and Omar Infante had developed a good rapport of the past two seasons playing up the middle for the Royals. On July 28th, they were just showing off.
In the 9th, with the Royals leading, 2-1, a chopper was hit over the head of closer, Greg Holland, that appeared to be headed into center field. Infante was able to get to the ball, flip the ball to Escobar, who set and threw for the out. It was an unbelievable play and arguably the best defensive play of the year.
#10. Royals clinch the American League Central for the first time.
Coming into the season, very few people gave the Royals a chance. PECOTA (not to be confused with former Royal, Bill Pecota) projected the Royals to win only 72 games.
However, going into September 24th, the Royals had a chance to win their first American League Central Division title and first division title since 1985. In a precursor of how the postseason would go, the Royals trailed, 3-2 going into the bottom of the 5th. From the 5th inning forward the Royals would score 8 runs and win the game, 10-4.
#9. Royals get to Price, take a 2-0 series lead.
David Price gave up a single to lead-off hitter on the first pitch to eventual ALCS, Alcides Escobar. Price then retired 18 straight Royals take a 3-0 lead into the 7th inning.
The inning started innocently enough. Lead-off hitter, Ben Zobrist, popped up a pitch that looked like an easy out for Blue Jays second baseman, Ryan Goins. However, Goins appeared to hear right-fielder Jose Bautista coming in and the ball landed between Goins and Bautista. Lorenzo Cain then singled to right, moving Zobrist to second. Eric Hosmer then dropped a single to center-field, scoring Zobrist and moving Cain to third as the Royals cut the lead to 3-1. Hosmer took off for second on a groundout by Kendrys Morales, scoring Cain and cutting the lead to 3-2. Mike Moustakas then singled to right and tied the game at 3-3. After a Salvador Perez strike out, Alex Gordon doubled to right-center, giving the Royals a 4-3 lead. Aaron Sanchez then replaced David Price and Alex Rios finished up the 7th with a RBI single to give the Royals a 5-3 lead.
To recap, the Royals 7th went like this: single, single, single (RBI), goundout (RBI), single (RBI), strike out, double (RBI), single (RBI). It was a foreshadowing of things to come for the Royals.
#8. Alcides Escobar leads off World Series with an inside-the-park home run.
In 2014, Alex Gordon was held at 3rd on a ball hit to left-center that got past Giants center fielder, Gregor Blanco. Many questioned third base coach, Mike Jirschele’s, call not to send Gordon home. Though replay and reenactments showed that Gordon would have clearly been out, the “what if” question remained.
Therefore, it was fitting that ALCS MVP, Alcides Escobar, led off the game with a drive to left-center. The Mets Yoenis Cespedes appeared to have a play on the ball, however, he missed it and the ball kicked off his foot and into left field. By the time Cespedes got the ball in, Escobar was around third and heading home. Jirschele didn’t have to deal with “what if’s” here and the Royals took a 1-0 lead.
Escobar hit the first inside-the-park home run since 1929 and Mule Haas and the first to lead off a World Series game with an inside-the-park home run since Patsy Dougherty in 1903. It set the tone for the Royals in the World Series.
#7. Johnny Cueto delivers as Royals take a 2-0 lead against the Mets.
On July 26th, the Royals traded left handed pitchers Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, and John Lamb to Cincinnati for Reds ace, Johnny Cueto. This was a trade for the here and now, not the future. Cueto was a rental player who had one purpose, help lead the Royals win a World Championship.
Cueto hadn’t performed well during the regular season, going 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in Kansas City. However, he pitched nearly perfect in Game 5 of the ALDS. Though he didn’t pitch well against the Blue Jays, he took the mound in Game 2 of the World Series a night after the game went 14-innings and depleted the Royals bullpen. Ned Yost needed Cueto to go deep into the game. Cueto did better and went 9 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits while striking out 4 in a Royals 7-1 victory. Johnny Cueto became the first Royals pitcher since Bret Saberhagen in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series to throw a complete game and only the third pitcher, joining Saberhagen and Danny Jackson, to pitch complete games in the World Series.
#6. Down to their final 6 outs, Royals gives Houston problems.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Royals, down to their final 6 outs of the season, trailed by 4 runs against an AL West team and yet still win the game. Much like the 2014 Wild Card Game, the Royals were down to their final 6 outs of the season in front of a hostile crowd in Houston and, much like 2014, the Royals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Alex Rios, who had been injured for a good chunk of the season and never really panned out, led off with a single to left. Alcides Escobar would move Rios to second on a single to center. Ben Zobrist, who had been acquired from the A’s in a trade deadline deal, loaded the bases with a single to right. Lorenzo Cain kept the line moving by singling in Rios and cutting Houston’s lead to 6-3. Tony Sipp then replaced Will Harris for the Astros, but, that didn’t stop the Royals. Eric Hosmer singled off Sipp to cut the lead to 6-4 with still nobody out.
This is where things get weird. Kendrys Morales stepped up to the plate. The Royals leading RBI guy hit a liner that hit off the mound and right to Carlos Correa at short. Correa appeared to have it all the way for what looked like a potential 6-3 double play. Correa took his eye off the ball for a split second, long enough for the ball to bounce off his glove and into centerfield, allowing the tying runs to score. After a Mike Moustakas strike out and a Drew Butera walk, Alex Gordon came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. The Astros had their infielders in half-way to keep the double play ball alive. However, Gordon hit the ball into the hole and forced Jose Altuve to go to his left enough to take out the double play. Hosmer would score and give the Royals a 7-6 lead. The Royals would go on to beat the Astros, 9-6, and force a winner-take-all Game 5 in Kansas City, a game the Royals would win to advance to the American League Championship Series.
#5. “He can fly”. Cain scores from 1st on a Hosmer single to give Royals lead in Game 6 of ALCS.
The Blue Jays just wouldn’t die. In the top of the 8th, with the Royals leading 3-1, Jose Bautista hit a 2-run home run off of Ryan Madson to tie the game at 3-3. The Royals needed something to avoid a Game 7, something they did not want.
In the bottom of the 8th, with the Royals facing Toronto closer, Roberto Osuna, Lorenzo Cain led off with a walk. Eric Hosmer stepped into the box with nobody out and a runner of first. Before the series, Royals advanced scouting had noted that Jose Bautista throws to the cutoff man at 2nd base. If Hosmer hit the ball into the corner, Cain could get a good jump and the throw to 2nd could give him enough time to score. After what happened during Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, it was nice to see Mike Jirschele get a shot to put the memories of the play behind him (though I, like many, believe he made the right call in Game 7).
Hosmer, on a 2-2 pitch, roped a line drive into the corner in right. Bautista cut the ball off quickly and threw to Troy Tulowitzki at 2nd. Cain, however, was off on the crack of the bat. By the time Tulowitzki got the ball it would have taken a perfect throw to nab Cain (and even that probably wouldn’t get him). Just like that, the Royals led 4-3 with their cyborg coming back for the 9th.
#4. Royals make it a dark night for New York as the Royals come back in the 9th.
The Royals had trailed in every game of the World Series and yet the Royals were the team who was one game away from a World Series title.
Matt Harvey, the Mets ace, had pitched a beautiful game, having pitched 8 scoreless innings and taking a 2-0 lead into the 9th. Mets manager, Terry Collins, decided to go with closer, Jeurys Familia, to send the series back to Kansas City. Harvey didn’t like the decision and pleaded with his manager to let him go back out for the 9th. Harvey was allowed to go back out and try to complete the shutout.
Harvey walked the leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain. Collins decided to let Harvey stay in following the walk. Cain then stole second and Hosmer doubled over Michael Conforto’s head in left field to cut the Mets lead to 2-1. Collins then went to get Harvey and bring in Familia, who had blown two saves in the series to that point. Mike Moustakas grounded to first, moving Hosmer to 3rd with one out and eventual MVP, Salvador Perez, coming to the plate. Again, the Royals advanced scouting played huge dividends. They noticed that Mets first baseman, Lucas Duda, dropped his arm when he threw and had the potential to throw wild. With the infield in, Perez ground to third. Mets third baseman, David Wright, froze Hosmer at third. As Wright threw to first, Hosmer bolted to the plate. Duda caught the ball for the out at first and had a shot at Hosmer at the plate. However, Duda’s arm dropped down on the throw and he threw wide, allowing Hosmer to score and tie the game. The game wasn’t over, yet, you knew it was going to be a great night in Kansas City history.
#3. Alex Gordon cements his spot in Royals history. Hits dramatic home run to tie Game 1 of World Series.
Alex Gordon has had an up and down career. He was drafted 3rd overall in 2005 as a 3rd baseman out of the University of Nebraska. Instantly the comparisons started. It wasn’t fair for Gordon, I mean, not everybody can be George Brett. He was the Minor League Player of the Year in 2006 and made his Major League debut on opening day in 2007. Gordon started out slow and struggled early in his career. He went from “can’t miss prospect” to bust overnight.
Then Gordon moved to left field to make room for 3rd baseman Mike Moustakas. That’s where Gordon took off. Since the move, Gordon has won 4 Gold Gloves and has been named to 3 All-Star Games. On this night, he put his name up there with George Brett’s for postseason heroics.
In the 9th inning of Game 1 with the Royals trailing, 4-3, Gordon stepped in the box with one out facing Mets closer, Jeurys Familia. Familia had not blown a save all postseason and was 5-for-5 in opportunities. On a 1-1 pitch, Gordon hit a sinker left up in the zone out of the park to dead center to tie the game at 4-4. The Royals would go on to win the Game, 5-4, in 14 innings and it set the tone for the rest of the series.
#2. Wade Davis performs Houdini while leading the Royals to their 2nd straight American League Pennant.
Wade Davis is “one bad motherf—–“. He once allowed a runner to 3rd to see what it felt like. He didn’t win Reliever of the Year because Cyborgs are ineligible. Wade Davis is the best reliever in the world.
Yet on this night, he would have to do his best Houdini impersonation. After Madson allowed a 2-run homer and a walk, Ned Yost went to Davis to finish the 8th inning. After the top of the 8th the game went into a 45-minute rain delay. After the Royals scored in the bottom of the 8th, it was up to Davis to shut down the Blue Jays having not pitched for over an hour. Russell Martin hit a single to center. Pinch-runner Dalton Pompey then stole 2nd and 3rd to put the tying run on 3rd with nobody out. Kevin Pillar then drew a walk to put runners on the corners with nobody out. With the Royals infield in, the Davis struck out Dioner Navarro with Pillar stealing 2nd. With the tying run on 3rd and the go-ahead run on 2nd with one out, Davis would have to face the top of the order.
Davis then struck out Ben Revere, allowing the infield to play at normal depth. The only thing that stood in the way of the Royals 2nd consecutive American League Pennant was likely-MVP, Josh Donaldson. If you’re a fan of baseball, this is what you want. It was the league’s best hitter vs. the league’s best closer. Davis got Donaldson to ground to Mike Moustakas and the Royals were American League Champions for the 2nd straight year. After the game, it was rumored that Chuck Norris started telling Wade Davis stories.
#1. Crown Them! The Royals win the World Series!
The Royals hadn’t won a World Championship since 1985. They came close in 2014 only to finish 90 feet away because of the masterful performance of Madison Bumgarner.
The Royals had survived the best the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays had to offer and had their hands full with the New York Mets. The Royals had trailed in all 5 games of the World Series and had trailed in this game, 2-0, going into the 9th. After tying the game, the Royals went into the 12th tied at 2-2. Salvador Perez, the eventual World Series MVP, led off the inning with a single to right. Jarrod Dyson then pinch ran for Perez and stole second. After Gordon grounded out to first, moving Dyson to third for the pitcher’s spot. On came Christian Colon. Colon hadn’t hit in over a month and this was only his second at-bat in his postseason career. In his previous postseason at-bat, Colon singled in Eric Hosmer in the 12th inning of the Wild Card Game. With the go-ahead run on third and one out, Colon singled to left field, scoring Dyson and giving the Royals a 3-2 lead. The Royals would go on to score 4 more runs to take a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the 12th.
With the lead, Ned Yost turned to Wade Davis to win the World Series. Davis made short work of the Mets, striking out the side and winning the first World Championship for the Royals since 1985.
With the game-winning RBI, Christian Colon became the third pinch-hitter to drive in the game-winning run of a World Series clincher, joining Gene Larkin (Minnesota Twins, 1991) and Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz (Detroit Tigers, 1984).
That’s it. Did I miss something or do you not agree with the list? Let me know and I’ll do better next time.
Let’s enjoy this for the wonderful moment it is.
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