And the Royals' hopes ran, they ran so far away

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All the talk of the Kansas City Royals being the Tampa Bay Rays of 2009
had already subsided long before Thursday night’s game. Losing eight of
10 and plummeting to the bottom of the AL Central took care of that.

But now the whole idea is officially dead.

The Royals have some nice pitching, including The Great Greinke, and
some young talent. But they’re not the Rays. They’re just the same old
Royals, finding new and interesting ways to lose.

On Thursday, it was a flock of seagulls that gummed up the works, and neither Alfred Hitchcock nor the musical wonder from the 80s had anything to do with it.

No, it was an actual flock of gulls that got in the way of Shin-Soo
Choo’s line drive in the 10th inning, deflecting the ball away from
Royals center fielder Coco Crisp and allowing Cleveland’s Mark DeRosa
to score without a throw.

“It was hit so sharply, I felt like I had a chance,” Crisp said. “You never know what the heck is going to happen.”

You can watch the video here.

Let’s face it, the noodle-armed Crisp probably wasn’t throwing out
DeRosa. The Royals also made two errors, Greinke was merely mortal, and
Kyle Farnsworth was – well – Kyle Farnsworth. But in the end, it was a
wayward bird that ended it.

It was bizarre and crazy, and prompted writer Joe Posnanski to serve up an amazingly comprehensive and amusing list of past Royals miseries.

Lost in all of this is the homefield advantage the Indians have
built up for themselves. Thursday night it was birds. Two years ago in
the playoffs against the Yankees, it was a swarm of bugs that rattled Joba Chamberlain.

And for you conspiracy theorists, the bugs and birds are not unrelated.

The bugs, common near the lakefront in late spring, returned a few
weeks ago, and for the past few weeks, flocks of gulls have flown
around feeding off them, as well as scraps of food tossed by fans.

“I guess the bugs brought the birds with that whole nature thing,” Crisp said. “I’d rather have the birds, to be honest.”

So what’s next in Cleveland? What eats sea gulls? Sharks? Or maybe this guy.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.