2015 KC Royals : There’s No Place Like Home
Some people call it the Hot Corner. Others say it’s like warm apple pie. For the 2014 Royals, third base was a proverbial ball & chain. It was just one year ago when Alex Gordon’s two out, bottom of the ninth, base hit turned double, turned error in the outfield, turned triple, turned full blown defensive panic… turned into Gordon being held up at third base on the game’s biggest stage.
Cheered on by 50,000+ screaming fans waving a sea of blue and white towels above their heads, apple pie never felt so warm. But with last year’s World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner on the hill, third base wasn’t a runway signaling home. It was an island. With Alex Gordon playing the role of Tom Hanks in “Castaway.”
The Royals became only the third team in baseball history to lose a game 7 with the tying run in spitting distance of home plate. But just like Tom Hanks, the Royals refused to be defeated by their island.
Instead they just “kept breathing.” They weathered the storm of the offseason and all the critics/naysayers on the decision to leave the tying run on third base. They put their heads down through the regular season and after 162 games, entered the 2015 playoffs with the American League’s best record.
However, having experienced fate’s fickle nature a year prior, the Royals couldn’t just rely on hope this time around. Instead their credo became simple. “Somehow, stay alive.”
Which they did… down four runs against the Astros - in the eight inning - of a division series elimination game - on the road. They outlasted the league’s most heralded offense, the Toronto Blue Jays, in six games. Then eventually found a way to survive against the National League Champion Mets, despite trailing to them in every game of the series.
Keep breathing. Stay alive. Because “tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.”
In game 6 of the ALCS, the tide brought an Eric Hosmer single to right with Lorenzo Cain on first base. Running from first to third, instead of Cain seeing the standard stop sign similar to the one that led to last year’s dramatic game 7 ending, Royals third base coach, Mike Jirschele, instead waved his man home. Cain sprinted around third base at 20.7 mph, rolling the dice and scoring an unprecedented game-winning run - from first base - on a single.
It took only one pitch into the World Series for another Royal to showcase the team’s determination to fly the third base coop. Alcides Escobar ripped Matt Harvey’s opening fastball into the gap in left center, and after a Yeonis Cespedes boot, it was Escobar who set the tone game one. He refused to settle for the stand-up triple, instead sailing past third base to score the first World Series inside-the-park homerun since 1929.
Then finally, in a do-or-die moment analogous to Hanks’ all-in, last push over the incoming tide aboard his half seaweed, half coconut life raft, Eric Hosmer inched his way off third base in what would become the deciding game of the 2015 World Series.
Hosmer waited patiently as David Wright fielded a one-out, broken bat ground ball into Wright’s glove. The Mets captain, staring down Hosmer, froze him on the baseline before throwing to first base for the second out. Rather than play it safe, and stay anchored at third, Hosmer once again rolled the Royals dice, breaking for home for an unconventional game tying, run scoring, 5-3-2 fielder’s choice. Hosmer slid in safely below Met’s first baseman Lucas Duda’s errant throw, and the gutsy play fueled the Royals to an extra inning, World Series clinching victory.
The Royals refused to die on that third base island, ridding themselves of that monkey on their back to make baseball history. Proof that if you just keep breathing, just keep surviving, the sun will come out. And then who knows what the tide will bring tomorrow? Actually, in this case, the Royals do know. A parade down the streets of the downtown Power & Light District in Kansas City.