10,561 days. That’s 28 years, 10 months, and 29 days.
That’s how long it had been since the Kansas City Royals last had a sniff of the postseason. Since that glorious October evening in 1985 that saw them win the World Series, the Royals went through 25 losing seasons in 28 years. That amounted to the longest playoff drought in the history of North American professional sports.
It’s over. It’s all over. For the first time in almost three decades, Royals fans will finally get to experience playoff baseball.
Well aware of the opportunity that was theirs for the taking, the Royals jumped on the Chicago White Sox immediately, tagging Hector Noesi for three first-inning runs. That was all Jeremy Guthrie needed; the veteran led Kansas City a 3-1 win that clinched a spot in the 2014 playoffs.
Alcides Escobar led off the game with a single, and he scored on Nori Aoki’s ringing triple down the right field line. Lorenzo Cain followed with an RBI single, giving Kansas City a 2-0 lead just three batters and nine pitches into the game. Following a stolen base, Cain would come home on Billy Butler’s single later in the inning.
In what was the biggest start of his career thus far, Guthrie (13-11) completely shut down the White Sox. He yielded four singles and one walk while striking out six, keeping the ball down with superb command all evening. He lowered his ERA to 2.40 in five September starts, and more importantly, the Royals have won four of those five games.
Guthrie surpassed the 200 innings mark for the fifth time in his last sixth seasons. Despite all the criticism he receives from the fanbase, he continues to provide exactly what the Royals have asked him to do – eat innings (414.1 over 65 starts since the beginning of 2013). His season concludes with an ERA of 4.13, and a WHIP of 1.30, which is his best since 2010. He finishes 2014 with 202.2 innings and a win-loss record of 13-11, winning eight of his final 10 decisions.
As they have all season long, Wade Davis and Greg Holland worked the eighth and ninth innings to close the game out. Despite allowing a run, Davis struck out the side in the eighth frame, extending his franchise record of strikeouts by a Royals reliever to 109. Holland earned his 46th save in 48 opportunities to nail down the playoff spot.
Kansas City is now 12-5 against the White Sox this season, including a 7-1 mark at U.S. Cellular Field.
Noesi (8-12) managed to settle in after the rough first inning to provide Chicago with a quality start. He scattered six hits over six innings, walking two and striking out five. For the first time since August 9, he did not surrender a home run.
For the Royals’ fanbase, Friday night was obviously a monumental occasion. The organization’s ineptitude over nearly three decades was demoralizing. As they always have, Kansas City fans remained loyal and (somewhat) optimistic. Their extended weight will finally be rewarded next week – if Kansas City can win one of their last two games, they will clinch at least one home playoff game. In likelihood, that would be the wild card game against the Oakland A’s next Tuesday night.
However, the Royals continue to insist that winning the division is their ultimate goal, and they received some help on Friday night. The Twins walloped the Tigers 11-4, which brought the Royals to within one game of Detroit in the AL Central standings.
While still not terribly likely, the Royals are still very much in play for the division crown. Winning the last two games of the regular season would be a big first step towards that goal. Kansas City will turn to Danny Duffy (9-11, 2.32 ERA), looking to secure a fifth consecutive win at U.S. Cellular Field. He will be opposed by lefty John Danks (10-11, 4.82), who has struggled this season, but worked six shutout frames against Kansas City back on September 16.
It was a magical night for Kansas City, particularly the fantastic fan base. Nearly half of the 27,000 fans in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field were dressed in Royal blue, some of which made the drive from Kansas City today to see their team clinch a playoff berth.
Who cares if it’s "only" a wild card spot? Think about this – today, the Kansas City Royals clinched a playoff spot. For the first time in 29 years, the Kansas City Royals clinched a playoff spot today. Every fan will always remember where they were and what they did to celebrate.
It was like a dream – this was something that the majority of us have waited to see for so long. The greatest part is knowing that it’s not over yet – this team still has more games to win, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a magical autumn for Kansas City baseball.