The Indefatigable Kansas City Royals

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NEW YORK — It takes 11 playoff victories to win a World Series crown. Three in the division series, four in the league championship series and four more in the World Series. Simply getting into the playoffs is hard enough — even with expanded playoffs this isn’t basketball or hockey; only a third of the teams make it and fewer than a third get a guarantee of more than one game — and winning those 11 games is obviously baseball’s biggest challenge.

So what can we say about a team that gave themselves an added degree of difficulty in winning it all? A team which spotted the opposition a lead in eight of those 11 games they eventually came back and won?

Early in the postseason people settled on the word “relentless” to describe the Royals and their style of play. It quickly became a cliche and, not too long after that, became something of a joke. Walking around Kauffman Stadium and Citi Field in the past week a reporter might say “how ya feelin’?” to one of his friends and his friend would reply back, “relentless!” The word became so overused to describe the Royals that it lost its meaning.

To the extent the world retains its definition, it’s a world that you might use to describe a machine. The Terminator, maybe. Something that never tires, can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned absolutely would not stop, ever, until you were beaten. A word that talks about someone who is on the offensive and will not let up in its attack. But these Royals weren’t that as such. There were lots of moments when they were on the ropes themselves, actually, most notably tonight when Matt Harvey dominated them for eight innings.

Even in the ninth, after one run was in and the Royals were threatening, there was a chance for the Mets to win the game. All it would’ve taken was a straight throw from Lucas Duda on Hosmer’s dash home. There’s no excuse for Duda’s bad throw and, unlike the folks in the Fox booth, To claim that Hosmer either knew Duda would throw the ball offline or somehow forced Duda to do so is simply wrong. Afterward Hosmer himself said Duda’s arm didn’t even enter into it. He just saw David Wright take a bit of time to throw the ball to Duda on the force out and broke. Hosmer was impulsive, fast and lucky and Duda was surprised and screwed up. It was the classic situation in which a bad decision resulted in a good outcome. It was just a play that happened as opposed to one that was designed.

But it did happen and it was put in motion by a Royals player who, however out he should’ve been, didn’t seem to think he’d be out. That is, at least to the extent he thought much about it at all. It came from a player who certainly didn’t believe his team was beaten.

We never quit. Never put our head down. Never think about, ‘OK game is over.’

That was World Series MVP Salvador Perez describing this club after the game. I don’t think he is describing a team that is “relentless.” That term implies a particular certainty of success and perhaps even dominance these Royals didn’t really have about them. These Royals could’ve been defeated many times and weren’t. Maybe if you’re simply unbowed you’re relentless, but if you’re bloodied and unbowed, I think you’re more properly referred to as indefatigable.

The 2015 Kansas City Royals were doubted when the season began. They were untested for most of the regular season. But when the playoffs came, things got tough. Those eight deficits should never have translated to eight wins. Edinson Volquez, suffering the loss of his father, should never have been able to endure that, fly to the Dominican Republic and back in such a short time frame yet come out throwing high-90s heat like he did in Game 5. The Royals never should have been able to disrupt Matt Harvey’s storybook ending to this game which seemed all but written.

Baseball players will never admit that there were times when they just packed it in because they felt things were hopeless, but baseball players often do pack it in or, at the very least, become discouraged in the face of long odds or near certain defeat. And, up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series, these Royals could’ve done that on this night, knowing that a split in Kansas City on Tuesday and Wednesday was something that was totally attainable and possibly even likely.

But they didn’t pack it in. They never stopped, often even when they should’ve, like how Eric Hosmer probably should’ve stopped at third base in the ninth inning. They took some clean shots to the nose early in several games but never once got shaky and never once gave anyone reason to doubt their ability to come back.

That’s perseverance. That’s tirelessness. That’s indefatigability. That’s what made the 2015 Royals World Series Champions.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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