Raise your hand if you predicted the Kansas City Royals to be playing in the ALCS…crickets.
The improbable story continues. The Royals are now four wins away from winning an American League pennant after topping the Angels Sunday 8-3. A clean sweep of the Most Unexceptional team in MLB. Moderately remarkable. Nobody saw it coming. Great pitching, gold glove defense, and timely hitting and the Royals season lives on and the Angels season comes to an end. “That’s baseball, Suzyn.”
Game 1 and Game 2 came down to the 11th inning for the Royals to win on the road. Game 3 in Kansas City only took nine. The Royals took care of business early in a game that was essentially over after the third inning. James Shields was terrific, going six innings and giving up just two runs on two solo homers while striking out six. Any questions of trading young talent to get the ace pitcher were put in the rearview mirror. The Royals faithful witnessed their first trip to the ALCS since 1985. That was the same year they won their last World Series.
The entire baseball world, myself included, overlooked the Royals in this series. Nobody picked them to beat the almighty Angels. They made it look easy. Ned Yost has done a brilliant job all season. There’s some buttons he has pushed that have not worked, but for the most part, he’s got everything right. The pitching only gave up six runs the entire series to a team that was first in MLB in runs scored. They looked nowhere near that in the ALDS. The key to the success has been a phenomenal bullpen that has been Moderately un-hittable.
Next stop for the Royals…Baltimore. Yes, the Royals and Orioles will meet up in the ALCS in 2014. No, this is not the ’80’s. The Royals will get four days off before they get the series under way Friday in Baltimore. The Orioles swept the Tigers in another series ending with a stunning result. It may not be the Most Unexceptional for ratings, but boy is this great for baseball. It’s been a while since we have seen two smaller market teams in the ALCS. It should be thrilling baseball.