At this point it’s a cliche to write about how the Royals never quit, how they fight until the last at-bat, how they’re never out of a game, how they grind out wins.
But that’s what happened last postseason, when they came from behind in the Wild Card game just to make it into the playoffs proper, and got within 90 feet of tying up Game 7 of the Word Series against the Giants in the bottom of the ninth. That’s what happened this postseason, when they found themselves down 6-2 in the eighth inning of an elimination Game 4 against the Astros in the ALDS.
And that’s what happened tonight, when Alex Gordon had to rescue the Royals in the bottom of the ninth.
By the time Gordon came up to bat, a million crazy things had already happened. Royals starting pitcher Edison Volquez’s father died shortly before the game began. Alcides Escobar led off the bottom of the first by hitting a first pitch inside-the-park homer/four-base error. The Fox generator and backup generator blew, leading to a delay and stunned TV viewers. And most proximately to Gordon’s heroics, Eric Hosmer’s Bill Buckner-esque error with two outs in the eighth let the Mets score the go-ahead run.
Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia took the mound to nail down the win in the ninth, and the Royals were scared. Or, if they weren’t, they should’ve been. Familia had a minuscule 1.85 ERA and 1.00 WHIP this season. He struck out 86 batters in just 78 innings. He hadn’t blown a save since July. But after Salvador Perez grounded out, Alex Gordon clobbered a 97 MPH fastball to the deepest part of the ballpark:
After a couple of scoreless extra innings, both managers reached the “uhh, shit, this game might go forever” point at the same time. Ned Yost opted for presumed Game 4 starter Chris Young, while Terry Collins went with regular season starter/postseason long man Bartolo Colon. To paraphrase Robert Frost, those choices made all the difference.
I still don’t fully believe it but Chris Young, throwing the softest-looking stuff imaginable, was unhittable. He struck out the side in the 12th, gave up a walk in the 13th, and retired the side in order in the 14th.
Bartolo Colon, on the other hand, loveable Bartolo Colon, was barely holding on from the very beginning. He escaped a bases loaded jam in the 12th (which, to be fair, was mostly of his own creation with two intentional walks) and made it through the 13th, but in the 14th things went to hell. A David Wright error put Escobar on first, and a single and intentional walk later, Eric Hosmer plated Escobar with a sacrifice fly, atoning for his error six innings prior.
Given that he had no chance to nail Escobar, Curtis Granderson made a hell of a throw, but it was a doomed effort.
Game 1 was equal parts enthralling, bizarre, and dramatic. We can only hope that we get six more games of the same.
Photo via Getty