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.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.