The 2014 Royals: A Crown-ology
Recounting Kansas City's most amazing* baseball season
(Editor’s note: “Most amazing? What about 1985?” you might ask. Back then, the Royals were perennial contenders. This year, such expectations were widely deemed somewhere between lofty and delusional, even into September. Hence, we consider this year the most amazing ever for the Royals and Kansas City.)
March 31: Tigers 4, Royals 3
On Opening Day at Comerica Park, Ned Yost’s bullpen management led to a ninth inning Tigers win. The second-guessing of Yost was off and running.
Quote: "The lack of consistency bothers me.” – Blogger Rany Jazayerl, after just one game.
April 9: Royals 7, Rays 3
The Royals hadn't hit a home run all season until Alex Gordon's three-run shot put an exclamation point on a five-run fifth inning. The lack of power would be a storyline for the duration of the season. The regular season, anyway.
Factoid: The team went homerless through its first seven games, the first to do so since the 1990 Yankees. — Sports Illustrated
April 13: Twins 4, Royals 3
An ugly sweep in Minnesota dropped the Royals to 4-7 as Wade Davis wildly threw home in the eighth on a potential double-play ball, allowing the two winning runs to score.
Quotable: "I think everybody's trying to do too much right now.” — Yost
April 19: Royals 5, Twins 4
The Royals won their fifth game in a row on the strength of a bullpen that was showing early signs of dominance. Danny Duffy helped Davis and Holland pitch four innings of no-hit ball, retiring the last 12 Twins in order.
Quotable: "It's kind of like last year. At any moment, we can win some games in a row and I think we're showing that early.” — Billy Butler
May 4: Tigers 9, Royals 4
In an early indication of a season-long trend, Detroit outplayed and outclassed the Royals, beating them by a combined score of 26-8 and taking a 4 1/2-game lead in the American League Central division.
Quote: "The Royals laid down, while dropping a cherry on top of this disgraceful sundae of a series. Not only did the Tigers sweep the Royals, the Royals failed to even compete with the Tigers." — Ed Connealy, kingsofkauffman.com
May 17: Royals 1, Orioles 0
Duffy was perfect for 6 2/3 innings before the Orioles' Adam Jones singled. The win moved the Royals back to .500 at 21-21.
Quotable: "I'm happy with this outing, but you can't be satisfied in May. We're looking at the big picture.” — Danny Duffy
May 28: Astros 9, Royals 3
The most inexplicable sweep of 2014 against KC was at home by lowly Houston, who outscored the Royals 21-5 in the series. Getting dump-trucked by the Houston Astros was a humiliating omen.
Quote: "Right now, on the edge of June, the [offense] has failed in all aspects. Yost portrayed his offense as a broken, bewildered group." — Andy McCullough
May 29: Royals 8, Blue Jays 6, 10 innings
In what could've been their fifth straight loss, the Royals staged three different comebacks and tied the game 6-6 on a Toronto throwing error. Omar Infante's two-run single in the 10th gave KC a much-needed win.
Quote: "We were looking at two outs, nobody on in the ninth and darned if we didn't make it work." — Yost
May 31: Blue Jays 12, Royals 2
An experiment went horribly wrong. Spot starter Aaron Brooks faced 11 Toronto batters and allowed seven runs in the first inning.
Quote: "This is what we're down to? Aaron Brooks? He was scared.” — Sports Radio 810’s Soren Petro
June 3: Royals 8, Cardinals 7
KC flashed their feistiness in beating St. Louis at Busch Stadium, scoring six runs in the fifth and overcoming a late St. Louis lead.
Quote: "The Royals completed a gutsy 4-2 road trip through some formidable land mines in Toronto and St. Louis, and did so with their most impressive win since ... well, since last season, probably." — Jeffrey Flanagan
June 17: Royals 11, Tigers 4
A day after roughing up Justin Verlander, the Royals slammed another Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer. The win erased the Tigers' lead in the division, putting the Royals in first place.
Factoid: It was the latest in a season for the Royals to reach first place since 2003.
June 18: Royals 2, Tigers 1
The 39-32 Royals expanded their lead in the Central with a gem from Jeremy Guthrie. It was the Royals' 10th straight victory, their longest win streak since 1994, when they won 14 in a row.
Factoid: With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Kansas City had reached the American League Championship Series in each of the previous three seasons when it won at least 10 straight. — ESPN Stats & Information
June 22: Mariners 2, Royals 1
The offense went back to sleep against the Mariners, who swept the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Seattle would later press the Royals for a wildcard spot.
Quote: "So far (the Royals) dance to an eerily similar soundtrack." —Sam Mellinger
June 29: Royals 5, Angels 4
After a ninth inning Angels’ fielding gaffe, Infante's RBI single gave the Royals their first walk-off win of the season. Eric Hosmer's 0-for-5 day at the plate dropped his average to .246, which hadn't been that low since April.
Quote: "I am deeply alarmed about Eric Hosmer. The Royals need him to become a stud more than anyone else in the organization, in my opinion.” — Max Rieper in Royals Review's Mid-season Assessment
July 13: Royals 5, Tigers 2
Right before the All-Star break, the Royals avoided a sweep by the Tigers and beat Verlander again. At 48-46, the Royals trailed the Tigers by 6.5 games.
Quote: "52 of KC's final 68 games come against teams with .500 records or worse. I picked the Royals to make the playoffs … so after seeing that stat, I might as well stick with it." — Jonah Keri, Grantland
July 18: Red Sox 5, Royals 4
In the first game after the All-Star break, Yost’s decision to use pitcher Scott Downs backfired, leading to the first Boston win in a series sweep at Fenway Park. Quotable: "Could you imagine the joy in the Red Sox dugout when they saw Scott Downs coming into the game? Boston hasn't been given a gift like that since the Larry Bird draft." — National columnist Joe Posnanski
July 21: White Sox 3, Royals 1
White Sox ace Chris Sale struck out eight as the Royals, 48-50 and mired in third place, lost their fourth in a row to start the season’s second half. It was perhaps the lowest point of the regular season for the Royals.
Quote: "It was kind of the Tigers to let us have our moment in the sun. Since then, the Royals have gone 9-17." — Craig Brown, Royals Authority
July 24: Royals 2, Indians 1, 14 innings
Holland blew a save in the top of the ninth inning, but Nori Aoki's hit in the bottom of the 14th scored Lorenzo Cain. Cleveland’s Ryan Raburn provided a memorable moment with a comical throw in left field.
Quote: "Congratulations to Ryan Raburn, who on Thursday night absolutely locked up the award for worst defensive play of the year." — Jon Tayler, Sports Illustrated
Aug. 10: Royals 7, Giants 4
The Royals rudely chased Tim Lincecum, who had thrown a no-hitter a little more than a month earlier. It was the Royals' 15th win in 18 games and their seventh in a row, the first time they've had two winning streaks of seven or more games since — when else? — 1985.
Quote: "Pitching has not been the Giants' principal problem of late, but it was Sunday for Lincecum, who might want to scratch this place off his future travel itinerary." — Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle
Aug. 11: Royals 3, Athletics 2
For the Royals' eighth consecutive win, Alcides Escobar's seventh-inning RBI single broke a 2-2 tie. Coupled with a Tigers loss, the 64-53 Royals clawed back into first place in the division less than a month after being eight games behind Detroit.
Quotable: "It was as loud and joyous a crowd I can remember at The K. We know what’s happening. We are aware." — Blogger Craig Brown
Aug. 18: Royals 6, Twins 4
This is how you know you're on a roll: Backup catcher Eric Kratz, of all players, smacked two home runs to give Jason Vargas all the run support he needed. It was the eighth straight series win for the Royals.
Factoid: Winning eight straight series was a feat the Royals hadn't matched in 23 years.
Aug. 26: Royals 2, Twins 1
It was a lousy evening at the plate for the Royals until Gordon deposited an 0-1 pitch from Gerald Perkins into the Pepsi Porch for a walk-off two-run homer.
Quote: "If this is your year, these are the games you win." — Denny Matthews
Sept. 5: Royals 1, Yankees 0
James Shields only needed 97 pitches in 8 1/3 innings in the Royals' first ever 1-0 win in any Yankee Stadium. At 78-61, the Royals were 17 games above .500.
Factoid: The Royals had not been that far above .500 since the days of Bo Jackson and George Brett in 1989.
Sept. 9: Tigers 4, Royals 2
Shaky Tigers closer Joe Nathan picked off Jarrod Dyson at second base, killing a ninth-inning Royals rally. The blunder pulled the Tigers within a whisker of the first-place Royals.
Quote: "Yes, everyone knew Dyson was going. But the Royals can't score. Yost tried to push it. If he had done nothing, he would have faced criticism too." — Ken Rosenthal, Twitter
Sept. 14: Red Sox 8, Royals 4
Another opportunity to second-guess Yost’s handling of pitchers. With better options available, he brought in Aaron Crow to handle a sixth-inning jam. He gave up a grand slam. When asked why he chose Crow, Yost said, "Aaron Crow's inning is the sixth inning. Kelvin's is the seventh."
Quote: "For me, this is Ned Yost's event horizon. “This situation and astonishing remarks above have broken a mold." — Shaun Newkirk, Royals Review
Sept. 15: Royals 4, White Sox 3
The slumping Royals had lost six of their last nine games to fall further behind the Tigers. But they used their scrappy ways and speed to unconventionally score from second base twice on two infield singles, robbing the White Sox of a win.
Quote: "Maybe the Royals' season isn't over. At least for one night in mid-September, it looks like it might not be." — Josh Duggan, Royals Review
Sept. 17: Royals 6, White Sox 2
When Lorenzo Cain hit a three-run homer in the third inning, the Royals were on their way to humbling Chicago ace Chris Sale. Aoki, finally showing signs of the offense the Royals had expected, had 11 hits in the three-game series.
Factoid: Aoki’s series total for hits set a franchise record. The old record was 10, held by Brett and Willie Wilson.
Sept. 22: Indians 4, Royals 3; Royals 2, Indians 0
The strangest doubleheader of the year. On Aug. 31, Cleveland was ahead 4-2 in the 10th when a monsoon swamped the K, forcing the game’s suspension. It was resumed in Cleveland, with the Royals as the home team. They scored one run but lost. Then Duffy shined in the regularly scheduled game, surviving a first-inning jam with the bases loaded and no outs.
Quote: "With the bases loaded, it seemed like everything in 2014 was on the line ... And then Danny Duffy pitched out of it, and saved the Royals' season." — David Schoenfield, ESPN
Sept. 26: Royals 3, White Sox 1
Pop the champagne — first round: The Tigers would win the AL Central division, but the Royals clinched their first postseason spot since 1985. The players strapped on goggles and doused each other in Coors Light and Cook's California bubbly in the locker room.
Quote: "Eight games out, seven games out, took the lead, blew it, seven games down again, came back, got the lead again and battled, and stayed with a team that's supposed to win the division by a lot ... there's no reason you shouldn't be proud of every one of these guys." — George Brett
Sept. 30 Wild Card: Royals 9, Athletics 8 (12 innings)
By all accounts, this should not have happened. The Royals were four runs down with six outs left, facing postseason ace Jon Lester. They surged in the eighth, tied in the nine, and trailed again in the 12th before Salvador Perez singled for the victory. The Royals tied a playoff record with seven stolen bases.
Quotable: "No sports fans deserved last night more than those in Kansas City. I hope the Royals go all the way." — Mike Greenberg, ESPN
Oct. 2 American League Division Series, Game 1: Royals 3, Angels 2 (11 innings)
The Angels had the best record in the majors, but they didn’t have Mike Moustakas. His leadoff home run in the 11th validated five innings of one-hit pitching by the bullpen.
Quotable: "The Angels went quietly in the bottom of the 11th inning, and soon chants of 'Let’s Go Royals' were bouncing from one end of Anaheim to another. On a night of cold slaps to the face, the stadium takeover by opposing fans was the most unkind of all." — Vincent Bonsignore, Los Angeles Daily News
Oct. 3 ALDS Game 2: Royals 4, Angels 1 (11 innings)
Eric Hosmer's towering two-run homer helped the Royals become the first team in the history of baseball to win three consecutive postseason games in extra innings.
Quotable: "I'm thinking the 'destiny' narrative is gaining a little steam here." —Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com
Oct. 5 ALDS Game 3: Royals 8, Angels 3
The first easy postseason win for KC clinched this series. Alex Gordon drove in three runs with a double, and Hosmer and Moustakas homered to sweep their way to the League Championship Series.
Quotable: "I think we're over the stage of 'happy just being there.' We know this group is for real. The city knows this group is for real. I think the rest of the world is starting to find out we're for real." — Eric Hosmer
Oct. 10 American League Championship Series: Royals 8, Orioles 6 (10 innings)
Different series, same result. The Royals saw a 5-1 evaporate before pounding the Baltimore bullpen with 10th-inning homers by Gordon and Moustakas.
Factoid: It was the Royals’ fourth extra-inning win in a postseason, setting yet another major league record.
Oct. 11 ALCS Game 2: Royals 6, Orioles 4
Still more nail-biting before KC broke a ninth-inning tie. An infield single, a sacrifice, an Alcides Escobar double to score a run, an error and a Lorenzo Cain single to score another run. Cain was 4-for-5 at the plate for the Royals.
Factoid: In the sixth inning, Cain’s diving catch in right-center ended a dash that was clocked at 21.2 mph at the end of an 82-feet sprint. It was one of several plays that helped earn him series Most Valuable Player honors.
Oct. 14 ALCS Game 3: Royals 2, Orioles 1
Something finally stopped the Royals — rain. This game was delayed 24 hours, but it didn’t wash out the Royals’ momentum. KC scored on a sacrifice fly and a groundout, but Moustakas stole the show with a diving catch into a dugout suite.
Quotable: "There are two-week-old children now alive who have never seen the Kansas City Royals lose a game." — Ross Douthat, New York Times
Oct. 15 ALCS Game 4: Royals 2, Orioles 1
Two improbable first-inning runs (the ball never left the infield) followed by eight innings of agonizing suspense ended when Moustakas threw to Hosmer for the final out of the sweep. The stock market was struggling, but the KC souvenir market boomed off the charts.
Quotables: "Kauffman Stadium turned into one giant, unrelenting, history-cleansing, burden-emptying, 29-years-in-the-making wall of sound on the final out.” — Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
World Series Game 1 — Oct. 21: Giants 7, Royals 1
In their first loss of the postseason, the Royals had no answers for Madison Bumgarner, establishing an ominous trend.
Quotable: "The Giants did something teams simply haven't been doing against the Royals. Right at the start, San Francisco delivered a punch. And then another. And another." — Richard Justice, MLB.com
World Series Game 2 — Oct. 22: Royals 7, Giants 2
A leadoff home run by San Francisco's Gregor Blanco off turned out to be just an annoyance for Royals rookie starter Yordano Ventura. A five-run Royals sixth inning put the game away. The lasting image was the verbal spat between Perez and Giants reliever Hunter Strickland.
Quotable: "You want to get rid of this? Don't give up home runs." — ESPN analyst John Kruk's advice for Strickland.
World Series Game 3 — Oct. 24: Royals 3, Giants 2
Starters Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals and Tim Hudson of the Giants retired 20 batters in a row between them, the most in a World Series since 1956. Sixth-inning RBI hits from Gordon and Hosmer were decisive. Greg Holland easily earned his seventh save of the playoffs, tied for the most in one postseason in MLB history.
Quotable: "This is unfair. I mean, that is just downright ridiculous in every possible way. Having a great bullpen is a vital part of any successful postseason run. But having that is stacking the freaking deck." — Will Leitch of Sports on Earth on the Royals’ dominant bullpen.
World Series Game 4 — Oct. 25: Giants 11, Royals 4
Not fun. The Royals led 4-1 in the third. Then reliever Brandon Finnegan, the only player ever to pitch in the World Series and College World Series the same year, opened the door to a 10-run Giants barrage.
Quotable: "That’s how baseball is. It will pick you up real quick and it will kick you in the guts real quick, too." — Brandon Finnegan
World Series Game 5 — Oct. 26: Giants 5, Royals 0
Madison Bumgarner again. This time it was a four-hit, complete game shutout. It was the first shutout with no walks since Royal Bret Saberhagen's gem to win Game 7 of the 1985 World Series. Of his 117 pitches, 84 of them were for strikes. Quotable: "Madison Bumgarner lends to this time of year what Michael Jordan once lent to the NBA Finals: The aura of the inevitable. What Jordan was to June, Bumgarner is to October." — Erik Boland, Newsday
World Series Game 6 — Oct. 28: Royals 10, Giants 0
On the verge of elimination, the Royals shellacked the Giants. A seven-run second inning plus another strong performance by Ventura guaranteed a Game 7.
Quotable: "No words ... Ummmmmmmmmmmmm ... Nope. Just tears. Tears for this team. Tears for my city. Tears for all of YOU! How will I EVER sleep??!?!" —Kansas City's Joyce DiDonato on Twitter after knowing she’d sing the national anthem for Game 7.
World Series Game 7 — Oct. 29: Giants 3, Royals 2
It was 90 feet away — one more miracle with two out in the bottom of the ninth after Gordon reached third base. But that Bumgarner guy was pitching his way to the MVP award, and a Perez pop-up sealed San Francisco’s third title in five years.
Quotables: "Magically, something poignant materialized out of nowhere. As the San Francisco players celebrated in the infield and a few Royals fans ducked down the exits …, a chant gradually spread through the stands at Kauffman Stadium: "Let's go, Roy-als! Let's go, Roy-als!" — Jerry Crasnick, ESPN
The 2014 American League champions open their 2015 home season April 6 at the K against the Chicago White Sox.