Yogi Berra once said "It ain't over til its over." But man, its almost over for the Royals. To have any kind of chance of making the playoffs, they need to win out in these final seven games against the White Sox and Mariners. The Royals have finished hot before. Maybe these past clubs that ended the year strong can give some inspiration for our boys in blue tonight as they march into the dreaded Pacific Northwest.
The inaugural Royals snapped a five game losing streak by splitting a series in Chicago in front of crowds as small as 2,500 fans. They then swept the Angels to end the year to finish with 69 wins in '69.
The 1980 Royals won five out of six the last week of the year, despite being in cruise control with a double-digit lead in the American League Western Division. Despite their lead, they let Dennis Leonard and Paul Splittorff start the last two games. The Royals clobbered the Twins 17-1 in the second-to-last game of the year, before shutting Minnesota out 4-0 in the finale.
1981 was a strike year, so there was a first-half and second-half division title at stake. The Royals, despite having a losing record overall, led Oakland by a half game for the second-half division title going into a makeup double-header in Cleveland on the day after the last day of the regular season. Kansas City pounded Cleveland 9-0, giving them the second-half division title, and rendering the second game of the doubleheader meaningless. The club overall won six of its last eight regular season games.
The 1982 Royals came into the last week of the season 3.5 games back of California, needing to pretty much win out to have a chance. They nearly did so, winning five of their last seven, including two of three from the Angels, but California managed to hang onto the division and win it by three games.
The 1985 Royals went into the last week of the season down by one game to the first place California Angels for the division lead. The Royals and Angels faced off in Kansas City in a playoff atmosphere for the division title. The clubs split the first two games, but in the third, George Brett cracked a three-run home run in the first inning and Bud Black tossed a three-hit shutout to tie things up in the standings. In the final game of the series, Danny Jackson sprinkled eleven hits over eight innings, as the Royals won 4-1 to take control of the Western Division. Kansas City never looked back as they took two of three from the Athletics to clinch the division en route to the only World Championship.
The defending champion 1986 Royals had a disappointing season, but finished strong with wins in five out of seven games against an Angels team that had clinched and an 86-loss Athletics team that had some promising young players that would go on to win a championship years later.
After taking two of three from the first place Twins in Minnesota, the 1987 Royals needed to win every single game the last week of the year to force a playoff with the Twins. The Royals promptly lost on Monday to a lousy Mariners club, clinching the division for the Twins. Kansas City did win all their remaining games to finish at 83-79, while Minnesota would go on to win a championship.
The 2000 Royals were known for their franchise-record setting offense, but it was two team shutouts in the last seven games that was the most surprising, including a 9-0 drubbing of the Indians and their league-leading offense. Jeff Suppan tossed a complete game shutout against the Tigers as part of a sweep, and Royals fans started to have misplaced hope for the future.
The 2006 Royals were destined for 100 losses, there was no getting around it. But at least Vanderbilt left-hander David Price loomed before them, as a prize for their ineptitude. The Royals marched into Detroit, the surprise contender that year, and promptly swept the Tigers, costing Detroit the division title, and the Royals a chance at Price.
The 2008 Royals flirted with respectability until a 7-20 August doomed them. Trey Hillman finished strong though, sweeping the Tigers in Detroit, then taking two of three in Minnesota to end with 75 wins, the most in the Dayton Moore era until today.
Will the 2013 Royals give us a September to remember?
Will the Royals somehow, against all odds, make the playoffs?
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