If the season ended today, the Kansas City Royals would be in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the season doesn’t end today, but the excitement the Royals have created in Kansas City is very real. Behind Jeremy Guthrie’s eighth career complete game, the Royals swept the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night with a 6-2 win.
The victory, coupled with the Blue Jays’ 2-1 loss to Baltimore earlier in the afternoon, vaulted the Royals into the second wild card spot. Meanwhile, Detroit lost at Yankee Stadium, closing their AL Central lead to just 2.5 games.
Guthrie (8-9) won his third straight start in style, firing the team’s first complete game of the season. He was tagged for two early runs, which wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been considering he allowed seven hits in the first three innings.
After that, though, he was literally lights-out. He retired the final 19 hitters of the game, never letting Arizona get a glimmer of hope. Wade Davis and Greg Holland both warmed up just in case, but Guthrie made sure both relievers would be rested for the upcoming homestand. He allowed the aforementioned seven hits, all of which were singles, while striking out four and walking none.
It was Guthrie’s fourth complete game as a Royal, all of which have come in last two seasons. His last was an eight-inning complete game in Detroit last September 15th.
The offense provided more than enough support for their starter, continuing their recent showing of maturity. Both times Arizona struck for a run, Kansas City immediately responded by matching the Diamondbacks. After a Mark Trumbo sacrifice fly gave Arizona a 1-0 first-inning lead, Alex Gordon one-upped the opponent the next inning by clobbering a two-run homer off of starter Vidal Nuno (2-8). Gordon’s 10th dinger of the season cruised over the right field wall; his first since June 21.
In the third inning, the Royals executed “small ball” to perfection. Nori Aoki and Omar Infante hit consecutive singles, and followed that with a double steal. Immediately afterwards, Salvador Perez singled them both home with a perfectly placed soft liner just past third baseman Jake Lamb, giving Kansas City a 4-1 lead.
Arizona got one of the runs back in the bottom half of the third on an RBI single by Lamb, his first major league hit. However, the Royals once again responded in the next inning, as Alcides Escobar singled home Lorenzo Cain to push the lead back to a three-run margin. An insurance run was added in the ninth inning when Aoki drove in Escobar with his second hit of the game.
All nine Royals starters reached base. Each starter besides Guthrie reached with a base hit, while the Royals starter got on base in the ninth inning after being hit by a pitch. He went first-to-third on Aoki’s RBI single, narrowly avoiding injury after doing an unorthodox slide into third base. For those of you who haven’t seen it, go watch it here. It’s worth it, I assure you. Somebody needs to stop taking base running lessons from Eric Hosmer.
The win gave the Royals their first sweep since taking three straight from the White Sox back on June 13-15. It ran the club’s team-record road interleague winning streak to eight straight games, and clinched the team’s first road sweep in interleague play since June of 2008.
After the game, manager Ned Yost was clear what the team’s goals are. “We’re not even looking at the second wild card right now. Our focus is on winning the division.”
Winners of 12 of their last 15 games, the Royals will return home this weekend for what’s sure to be a sellout series. Facing the San Francisco Giants, Jason Vargas (8-5, 3.69 ERA) will oppose Madison Bumgarner (13-5, 3.21). Six of the next seven starters that will face Kansas City have playoff experience. It won’t be an easy homestand, but once Kansas City gets past the Giants and the A’s, they will play six consecutive series against teams currently under .500.
I angrily said a month ago that I wouldn’t be going to any more Royals games until they showed me progress. They’ve shown it. I don’t know if they can maintain it, but … I’m sorry, hold on one moment.
I just checked ESPN. Yup, the Royals are in the second wild card position right now. See? This town is fired up. The Chiefs had a preseason game tonight, and they scored 41 points. The talk of the town is still the baseball team. Tomorrow’s Kauffman crowd will be very close if not more than 40,000. 49 games remain, and if the Royals can post the same record as the other teams in the wild card race, they will be in the playoffs. That’s pretty awesome.
Be Royal, Kansas City. For the first time in decades, being “Royal” hasn’t involved screwing everything up, at least as of recent. Let’s see how long it lasts. We’ve seen this movie before, right? We know how it ends, right? Maybe this time we’ll get an alternate ending.