It had been a good season – 95 wins is nothing to sneeze at – but it was ending in disappointment. Bitter disappointment.
You can call it however you want. Rationalize that 95 wins is great and we should all be happy just to be in the post-season. It is after all, just a game. So many other things are more important than to stress about the results of a baseball game or four. We get it, you’re deep and so rational with your emotions.
This Royals team and its 95 regular season wins was going to go out with a whimper in the post-season. A four game series loss to a Houston team that stumbled to the finish line. Since sports is really about emotions, we were right to be bitter, angry and maybe for a few hours on a Monday afternoon more concerned about a baseball season ending than world peace or whatever Donald Trump said today.
This Royals team was not built to have a great regular season, it was built to win a championship. Dayton Moore did not acquire Johnny Cueto to win 95 games, he got him to win playoff games and the entirety of Cueto’s Royal legacy was going to be one solitary post-season start. Dayton Moore traded for Ben Zobrist to win games in October and here he was, playing second for a team that was getting no further than it would have with Omar Infante in the lineup. (To be fair Zobrist has been fantastic as a Royal, but you get the point). Heck, Dayton Moore traded for Jonny Gomes specifically with the idea of him pinch-hitting in a National League park in the World Series! That this team was going out – getting blown out in fact – in the divisional series was a bitter disappointment.
Trailing 3-2 in the top of the seventh, Terrance Gore had been called out trying to steal third after Alex Gordon had struck out with him on second. The Astros then added three more runs in the bottom of the inning and the season, and if you did not think so, you are a better person than I, the season was over.
Then it wasn’t.
Alex Rios, who had had two of the worst at-bats of the last decade earlier in the game, singled to lead off. Then Escobar did so, too. And Zobrist and Cain and Hosmer (who I called a bad name at least twice earlier in the contest). The Royals were now down just two with nobody out and the bases loaded. Kendrys Morales, who had two home runs to start the series and not much else since, hit a grounder to Carlos Correa. The Astros’ shortstop is maybe a year away from being in the Mike Trout/Bryce Harper best in baseball discussion, but at this moment, he booted what was a somewhat quirky groundball. Game tied. Unbelievably, the game was tied.
One out later, Drew Butera came to the plate. Ned Yost had no options. It was a worst case scenario: high pressure situation, extremely part-time player and one who, frankly, is a lousy hitter. Butera fell behind 1-2 and then proceeded to have probably the plate appearance of his life. Ten pitches total, four two-strike foul balls and, in the end a walk. A glorious walk. Alex Gordon followed with a run scoring ground ball.
The season was not over and it is not over.
On Wednesday night, Johnny Cueto takes the hill and Ben Zobrist will bat second and play second. The Royals will be at home, needing to win just one game to move onto the next round of the post-season. Just like it was supposed to be, right?