Unless you've been living under a rock all summer, you know that this weekend is a big series for the Royals, probably their biggest since 1985. But you young fans may not know, that the Royals have had big series before! Some of these series have been bigger than others, but let's take a look back at some of the big regular season series in Royals history.
September 17 - 20, 1979 - Royals vs. Angels
The Royals got off to a very slow start, and were at .500 at the end of July, but got red-hot in August to pull into first place by the end of the month. They fell behind, and on September 17, trailing by three games they got to host the first place Angels for a four-game set. The Angels were beset with injuries, missing first baseman Willie Aikens, outfielders Joe Rudi and Dan Ford.
The Royals destroyed the Angels in the first game 16-4. Royals starter Rich Gale was knocked around and couldn't finish the first inning in a 6-4 Royals loss in the second game. Kansas City battled back to win the third game 6-4, thanks to a crucial error by Angels rookie shortstop Jimmy Anderson. The Royals entered the last game with a chance to pull within a game.
Meanwhile, back in Anaheim, Autry tried to rally the troops. He sent Manager Jim Fregosi a pair of tapes. One was an interview with Kansas City owner Ewing Kauffman, in which Kauffman said some nasty things about the Angels.
The other was Autry's response. Fregosi played the tapes only for his players, who then went out and tied the series with an 11-6 victory. Reportedly, Kauffman had said that he didn't care who won the West, as long as it wasn't the Angels; that the Angels had no fans coming to their home games; that the Angels were mercenaries and that the Kansas City players were home-grown, dyed-in-the-wool, loyal Royals.
Fregosi looked down the Royals' roster and commented: "I guess he fails to realize Porter came in a trade, LaCock came in a trade, Otis came in a trade, McRae came in a trade, Gura, Pattin, Hrabosky . . . "
A week later the Royals traveled to Anaheim and dropped two of three and watched as the Angels celebrated their first division title.
September 20 - 22, 1982 - Royals vs. Angels
The Royals had been in first place much of September, but after a disappointing sweep in Minnesota, they found themselves tied with the Angels as they headed to Anaheim for a three-game set. Angels starter Geoff Zahn gave the Royals bulletin board material when he stated his dislike for the team.
"They've always had an attitude of extreme cockiness that's irked me some," Zahn said. "I don't like to see it on my club and I don't like to see it on others. I simply get more excited when I beat the Royals, and more disappointed when I lose."
Zahn would hold the Royals to just two runs over eight innings of work. Meanwhile, light-hitting Angels shortstop Tim Foli lofted a fly-ball down the left-field line that Willie Wilson tracked, only to look up and find a fan had reached over and caught it. The ball was ruled a home run, much to the ire of the Royals. It would prove to be the difference in a 3-2 Angels victory.
The next night, closer Dan Quisenberry would uncharacteristically give up three ninth inning singles to give the Angels a walk-off 2-1 victory. The Angels would complete the sweep with and 8-5 win on Wednesday that included a bench-clearing incident after Angels slugger Reggie Jackson barrelled into Frank White on a force-out. But the Angels had taken a three-game lead, and would head to their second division title.
September 30 - October 3, 1985 - Royals vs. Angels
This is perhaps the most important regular season series in Royals history. Either the Royals or Angels had participated in the playoffs in eight of the nine seasons prior to 1985, and the two teams were once again the class of the Western Division. The Royals had chased the Halos all year, but an eight game winning streak in September had seen the Royals surge to first. The Angels caught them on September 21, and for the next ten days, the two teams were either tied, or had one game between them. The Angels came to town September 30 for a four-game set with the Royals trailing by a game and reeling after a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Twins. A four-game sweep by the Angels would eliminate the Royals.
On a cold Monday night in front of 34,200 fans, Bret Saberhagen was masterful in a 3-1 Royals victory. Sabes would preview his October performance with a sensational outing, going the distance with ten strikeouts, including a whiff of future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson to end the game.
"Felt like the seventh game of the World Series to me," Kansas City Manager Dick Howser said. "I don't see how baseball gets much better than that. And I don't see how pitching can be much better than Saberhagen."
Charlie Leibrandt - who had been red-hot in the month of September, faltered on Tuesday as the Royals lost 4-2 to give the Angels back a one-game lead. Royals fans were nervous with the disappointing Bud Black taking the hill on Wednesday, but Black turned in the performance of his life, tossing a three-hit shutout, as George Brett's three-run home run was all the offense needed for a 4-0 Royals win.
With the two teams now tied, the Royals sent Danny Jackson to the hill against future Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton. The Royals would get on the board first with a first inning two-run home run by Frank White. Steve Balboni would add a solo shot in the fourth, and George Brett would add a blast in the fifth to make it 4-0 Royals. Meanwhile Danny Jackson sprinkled eleven hits, and tossed eight shutout innings before finally allowing a run in the ninth. Closer Dan Quisenberry shut things down for the 4-1 win, to give the Royals a one-game lead they would not relinquish en route to their first championship in franchise history.
September 18 - 21, 1995 - Royals vs. Twins
It was the first year of the Wild Card, and the first year since the labor stoppage that nearly wrecked the game of baseball. The Royals had been a pretty mediocre team hovering around .500 all year, but thanks to the Wild Card, they were just one game out of a playoff spot with a record of 67-63 as they opened up a rare five-game series against the Twins. The Twins were the worst team in the league, while the team the Royals were chasing - the Mariners, would be playing a team tied with the Royals in the Wild Card chase - the Rangers. Things looked up for the boys in blue.
The Royals destroyed the Twins in the first game of a doubleheader on Monday, winning 16-7. But they dropped the evening contest 10-4. The Royals would have ace Kevin Appier going on Tuesday, but Ape gave up five runs in a 7-3 Royals loss. Rusty Meachem would give up a game-winning single in the twelfth on the Wednesday game, and the Royals dropped their fourth game in a row on Thursday 5-2. Kansas City sat four games back at the end of the series, and would lose two more games during that losing streak to effectively eliminate their chances at post-season play.
September 20-22, 2013 - Royals vs. Rangers
Much like this year, the Royals had a second-half hot streak that found them inexplicably chasing a playoff spot. The club had cooled off in August after their "15 out of 20" streak but had begun to heat up again in September. They hosted the Rangers on the last home series of the year, just three games out of a Wild Card spot, but with four teams ahead of them chasing those two Wild Card spots, including the Rangers.
Ervin Santana was brilliant in the opener on Friday, pitching into the eighth, but a lackluster offense left the game tied at 1-1. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas each hit singles. Rangers reliever Jason Frasor walked David Lough to load the bases. Neftali Feliz relieved him and walked Alcides Escobar to plate what would be the winning run in a 2-1 Royals victory.
The Royals would drop the Saturday contest 3-1, but on Sunday they had James Shields. Big Game James lived up to his nickname, giving the Royals eight huge shutout innings. However again the offense was putrid, and failed to score against Rangers starter Alexi Ogando. Eric Hosmer would lead off the bottom of the tenth with a double. Billy Butler was intentionally walked and the Rangers brought in former Royals favorite Joakim Soria. After giving up a single to Salvador Perez, Soria would retire the next two hitters to bring up Justin Maxwell. Unless you were living in a cave last year, you know what happened next.
What kind of magic will we witness this weekend?