The dream is real. It's really, really real.
For the second straight year, the Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series. Their 4-3 victory in game six of the American League Championship Series earned them their second straight pennant. Once again, the World Series will begin at Kauffman Stadium. Once again, Yordano Ventura pitched like an ace in a playoff game. Once again, Kansas City rallied late in a game to jump ahead to execute its familiar plan. With one major hiccup. And a delay. And a rally. And a ridiculous top of the ninth inning. And everything in between.
If you let me throw up first, I'll begin recapping everything in this ridiculous game.
Ventura began the game by allowing a leadoff double to Ben Revere. He then immediately went into lockdown mode, retiring the next 10 Blue Jays he faced. He stranded Revere by getting through the heart of Toronto's murderous order.
While Ventura was putting up zeroes, the Royals' offense was ambushing Blue Jays starter David Price. Two of Kansas City's first six batters clubbed solo home runs off of the ace to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. Ben Zobrist lifted a towering shot into the left-field seats in the first inning, and in the very next frame, Mike Moustakas crushed a line-drive bomb just over the wall in right-center field. The play was reviewed for possible fan interference, but it was upheld.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Blue Jays reminded the Royals that they're still capable of playing long-ball themselves. Jose Bautista destroyed a letter-high fastball way over the left-field bullpen, cutting the deficit in half at 2-1. In each of the next two innings, the Blue Jays made threats to score, but their efforts were stranded by the Kansas City pitching staff.
Ventura walked the first two men he faced in the fifth inning. He escaped the jam, but not before John Gibbons' interesting decision not to have nine-hitter Ryan Goins bunt the runners over. With two outs, Josh Donaldson hit a laser to third base, but it was gloved by Moustakas.
In the top of the sixth, Edwin Encarnacion ended Ventura's day by lining a one-out double. Ned Yost lifted him for Kelvin Herrera, who retired all five Blue Jays he faced to keep the lead through the seventh.
In the home half of the seventh, the Royals tacked on an insurance run to double their lead. Moustakas led off the frame with a bloop single. After a jaw-dropping catch by Ben Revere against the left-field fence to rob Salvador Perez, Alex Rios came through with a two-out RBI hit to make the game 3-1. The Royals were six outs away from a pennant. It seemed inevitable.
In came Ryan Madson, not Wade Davis, to protect the two-run lead. Royals fans across the Kansas City metro area all held their collective breaths, bracing for the worst. Revere opened the frame with an infield hit, bringing the tying run to the plate for the meat of the Toronto order. Davis warmed in the bullpen but was not brought in. Madson fanned Donaldson to grab the first out, but Bautista silenced the stadium that had been rocking before with another monster home run, tying the game at three.
The reaction was a combination of shock, horror, and disappointment. Was Davis hurt? Was Yost completely, utterly stupid? There was no explanation in sight. The Royals were six outs away from winning the American League. Where in the world was your best reliever? He was throwing in the bullpen while another guy gave up a game-tying bomb. It's completely, totally, inexcusable.
Then came the rain. A 40-minute delay in the middle of the eighth inning later led to Yost admitting his plan. He wanted to save Davis for the ninth in the event of a rain delay. He didn't want his closer throwing the eighth and then the rain coming down, burning him for the rest of the night. It make sense if you think about it, but it's certainly still a very questionable move.
When play resumed at 10:45, Lorenzo Cain worked a walk in an epic at bat against Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna. Eric Hosmer then blooped a single down the right-field line, and Cain turned on the jets to score all the way from first base. Kauffman Stadium, which had been quieted just a matter of plays ago, was rocking again.
After not pitching for over an hour, Davis returned for the ninth inning. Russell Martin blooped a single to open the inning. Pinch runner Dalton Pompey entered and promptly ripped off second base. He took third later in the at bat. After Davis walked Kevin Pillar, he too immediately stole second base to put two men in scoring position with nobody out.
Davis then went into lockdown, cyborg mode. He struck out Dioner Navarro. He struck out Revere. And then, in a situation that could have only been written up in a Hollywood script, he faced the likely AL MVP Josh Donaldson with the game on the line. Donaldson grounded out to third base in a play that mirrored the ending to last year's ALCS. The Royals had won. It was over. It was incredible.
According to official scoring rules, Davis earned the win; there was no official save. Osuna took the loss. The Royals took the series in six games, 4-2.
Yordano Ventura: 5.1 innings, four hits, one run, two walks, and five strike outs. He threw 77 pitches. David Price pitched well, and Bautista's late heroics took him off the hook from going 0-8 in eight career playoff starts. He settled for a no-decision. He allowed three runs in 6.2 innings on just five hits, striking out eight and throwing 99 pitches.
The Blue Jays went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position for the game. In three ALCS games at Kauffman Stadium, they were just 3-for-35 with RISP. The Royals' pitching staff limited them to six runs in 27 innings. That's incredible.
For awhile, the game mirrored the Royals' ALCS clincher from one year ago against the Baltimore Orioles. In that game, Kansas City had a 2-0 lead through the second inning. In the fourth, their opponent clobbered a monster home run to cut the lead to 2-1. From there, the bullpen nailed down the victory and lifted the team into the World Series. This time, it took a much different route.
Alcides Escobar was awarded MVP of the ALCS. In the series, he hit .478/.481/.652 with 10 hits, two doubles, a triple, five RBIs, and a leadoff hit in an ALCS-record four consecutive games.
Think about this: the Royals traded Zack Greinke for the two men who have won consecutive ALCS MVPs. That's incredible.
Poor Josh Donaldson. Last year, his season ended when he couldn't glove a ground ball to third. This year, his season ends when he hits a ground ball to third. In the same stadium.
Game one of the World Series is just four days away. On Tuesday at 7:07 pm, the Royals will face the New York Mets in game one of the Fall Classic. The pitching matchup is likely to be Johnny Cueto vs. Jacob deGrom. Interestingly, both the Royals and the Mets lost season series against the teams they faced in the LCS (Blue Jays and Cubs), but came through when it mattered most. The Mets also come into the World Series hot, having won their last five games.
The Royals have played in three absolutely mind-blowing playoff games in the last 13 months. They've all resulted in Kansas City wins. As fans of an organization that was cursed and brutal for so long, I've never been so insistent in the belief that we are truly lucky to be associated with them.
It was arguably the craziest, wildest, most ridiculous playoff clincher in Royals history, but they ultimately got it done. Just like they have all year.
The Kansas City Royals are 2015 American League champions!