It seemed unrealistic a few days ago, as the slumping Royals dropped their 17th game in 26 September contests. At 90-67, the Royals fell to 1.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the race for home-field advantage. Panic set in as local radio shows were filled with fans proclaiming that the season was over.
Then, Ned Yost put Alcides Escobar back in the leadoff position. That's the reason all of this is happening, right?
The Kansas City Royals closed out their historic 2015 regular season with a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon. It was the fifth straight win for the Royals, who swept the Twins at Target Field for the second time this year.
Kansas City finished 2015 with a remarkable 95-67 record, good for the third-best win total in franchise history. They wound up winning the American League Central by 12 games.
On the final day of the regular season, the Royals jumped on Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco in the second inning, scoring three runs. Mike Moustakas led off with a walk, and after Salvador Perez singled to put two on with none out, Alex Gordon drilled a double into the right-field corner. The hit scored Moustakas for the game's first run, but the Royals would triple their lead when Alex Rios followed Gordon with a similar hit. His double made the score 3-0, and at that point, the game was essentially over.
Salvador Perez tacked on two additional insurance runs when he accomplished a franchise milestone in the third inning. He jumped on a 2-0 fastball and clobbered it over the left-field fence, collecting his 21st home run of the season. This set a new record for most home runs by a Royals catcher, surpassing the former mark of 20, previously held by Mike Macfarlane in 1993.
The Royals' sixth run of the day, their final one of the regular season, came via a Ben Zobrist sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. In all, 15 different position players were used for the Royals, who began subbing out regulars when the game was well in hand. In the eighth frame, Francisco Pena picked up the first hit of his major-league career when he blooped a single into right-center field.
Johnny Cueto (4-7) pitched efficiently against the Twins' B-team lineup, firing five innings of one-run ball. That marks four consecutive successful outings for Cueto, who appears to be coming into form as he prepares for the postseason. He worked out of jams in the first and second innings. In the third, he yielded two walks and two singles to surrender a run, but he struck out Shane Robinson and Max Kepler to escape further damage in a bases-loaded situation.
Cueto's season, combining his tenures with Cincinnati and Kansas City, concludes with the following numbers: 11-13, 3.44 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a K:BB of 176:44 in 212.0 innings. Though his ERA in 13 Kansas City starts was an ugly 4.76, his marked improvement in his last four outings is very encouraging. As a staff, the Royals have now had eight straight performances by a starting pitcher with at least five innings and no more than three runs allowed.
Edinson Volquez pitched the sixth and seventh innings out of the bullpen, surpassing 200 innings for the season in the process. It was the first time the 32-year-old Volquez has reached that mark in his career. The eighth and ninth frames were handled by Franklin Morales and Luke Hochevar.
Making matters better for Kansas City, while the three-run third inning was going on, the Tampa Bay Rays wasted little time in shattering the Toronto Blue Jays' chances of acquiring homefield advantage. After winning last night on a walk-off, the Rays jumped on Toronto starter Mark Buerhle for a nine-run first inning. The Blue Jays went on to lose 12-3. They finished 93-69, two games back of the Royals.
The Royals are 4-0 in October. They end the regular season with an impressive five-game winning streak, eliminating any concerns about their readiness for the playoffs.
The playoff schedule is set after a crazy game 162 day. The Royals, as the AL's top seed, will play the winner of Tuesday's Wild Card game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros. The game will be played at Yankee Stadium. On the bottom half of the playoff bracket, the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, who clinched the AL West on Sunday, will square off as the #2 and #3 seeds.
In the National League, the Wild Card game is set for Wednesday between the Pirates and the Cubs at PNC Park. The winner will play against the top-seeded Cardinals in the NLDS, while the Mets and Dodgers will square off in a separateseries.
Game One of the ALDS is set for Thursday, October 8, at Kauffman Stadium. Yordano Ventura will get the ball for the Royals.
As a 20-year-old college student, I can easily say that 2015 was the best regular season of Royals baseball I've ever witnessed. 95 wins is a remarkable number. It's been an amazing season.
Thank you, Royals Review. It's been a privilege writing for you guys twice a week this season. It's been an amazing experience to cover this team in the midst of such a special season, and I thank you for that. The only thing left to do? Win the whole ______ thing.