By Joe Hanretty
A week ago, I had a debate with myself. I agonized over whether I should have watched the American League Wild Card game between the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics or another game that was playing around the same time. At first, I thought that it might have been more worth my time to watch something else, but then I realized the magnitude of what had occurred in the Royals game. It was nothing less than historic. Tuesday night, I was graced with the experience of watching one of the greatest playoff games in the history of the storied sport of baseball. The team with the least amount of plate discipline, Kansas City, came back to defeat the most patient team in the league, Oakland. The team that had traded for Red Sox ace Jon Lester and the Cubs hurlers Jeff Samardijza and Jason Hammel, the team with the league’s best record at the All-Star break fell to the team that was in third place at that same juncture. For the first time in 29 years, the Royals made it to and won a playoff game!
The game started with a two-run bomb by Oakland’s Brandon Moss. It was followed shortly thereafter by a three-run rally by the Royals. Then the wheels came off for the Kansas City bullpen, as they allowed Oakland to put up five runs. The eighth inning rolled around and the Royals were still staring the four-run deficit in the face – something that the Oakland bullpen has shrugged off and closed out many times before. The Royals had other ideas; they were not going down without a fight. They proceeded to storm back, putting up four runs in the eighth, tying the game up at seven apiece.
Then in the bottom of the 11th inning, with a runner on second, Salvador Perez stepped to the plate for the Royals. He had gone hitless prior to that at-bat. On an 0-1 pitch, the right-handed catcher pulled a grounder down the third base line. It appeared that Oakland’s third baseman, Josh Donaldson, had a beat on it and made a valiant diving effort. As 29-year-old fate had it, the ball scooted by Donaldson, sending the Royals to the American League division series. Unbelievable! I was surprised the crowd did not jump onto the field. I was rooting for the Athletics, but I could not help but feel happy for the players, coaches and fans. What a feel-good story!
As exciting and exhilarating as the Royals game was, the rest of the postseason games have been just as satisfying. The San Francisco Giants won their Wild Card game in decisive fashion, 8-0, over the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are now on the brink of pushing the Washington Nationals out of the playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals have each blown one game and have one hard-fought win. The Baltimore Orioles swept the Detroit Tigers late Sunday afternoon. Orioles outfielder, Nelson Cruz, started the series with a home run and ended it with a home run. Call me crazy, but I believe that this was the best free-agent signing in the offseason this year. Finally, the Royals entered this weekend with an emotional win and ended it with an emotional sweep of the favored Los Angeles Angels. They will now face the Baltimore Orioles in what should be a tough series.