The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #1 The Relentless Royals win it all


We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

If baseball were 100% fair — if the league remained 30 teams strong and if we were to extend history out infinitely — eventually we’d reach a place where, on average, each team would win a World Series ever 30 years. Baseball is not fair, however, its past is uneven, its circumstances vary and its future unpredictable. As such, the Royals not winning a World Series for 30 years seemed pretty darn bad to fans who rooted for the men in royal blue.

It wasn’t just the lack of championships after 1985 which stuck in their craw. It was the lack of any reasonable claim to bare respectability. They only had five seasons in which they were above .500 between 1986 and 2012. In 2013 they took a step forward, winning 86 games and finishing seven back. In 2014 they shocked baseball by going on a tear after winning the wild card and pushing the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series before falling just short. Finally, at long last, the Royals were back on the map.

But they had unfinished business.

It was business that many pundits didn’t think the 2015 Royals could complete. Their 2014 was seen as a fluke by many. Lightning in a bottle. Victories on the back of some lucky bounces, some seeing-eye singles, some missteps from their opponents and some performances that, however great, were due to regress a year later. Many predicted they’d miss the playoffs. Hardly anyone thought they’d win the division. But win it they did. Quite easily, actually. They traded first and second place out a couple of times early but they took over the top spot in the AL Central on June 9 and would never relinquish it. For almost all of August and September their lead was double digits.

If that didn’t convince everyone, the Royals showed that 2014 was no fluke whatsoever once the playoffs started. It wasn’t a cakewalk. To win the World Series you have to win 11 playoff games. In eight of those 11 wins, the Royals spotted the opposition the lead. It didn’t seem to bother them too much, though. A joke started circulating sometime in October: “How do we defeat ISIS?” The answer: “Spot them a two-run lead to the Kansas City Royals and they’ll lose for sure.” The jokesters weren’t wrong.

Early in the postseason people settled on the word “relentless” to describe the Royals and their style of play. I understand that from a purely tactical point of view. They pressured defenses with their running game, fouled everything in the world off and never ceased throwing pure gas at opposing hitters. But I’m not sure “relentless” was the most apt word, however, as “relentless” implies a dominance the Royals didn’t always demonstrate. Indeed, they experienced more than a few moments when they themselves were on the ropes.

But it didn’t matter:

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

That was World Series MVP Salvador Perez after Game 5, accurately describing the approach he and his teammates took throughout the season and, especially, the playoffs. As I wrote the night the Royals won the Series, I don’t think what Perez was describing was a team that was “relentless,” as such. If you’re simply unbowed you’re relentless, sure, but if you’re bloodied and unbowed — as Perez noted that, at times, the Royals were — I think you’re more properly referred to as indefatigable. These Royals were definitely that. And I consider that to be higher praise than merely noting the Royals’ “relentlessness.”

All teams which win a World Series are talented and the 2015 Royals were, without question, a talented team. But there are different types of World Series winners. Some are thought to be damn nigh unbeatable teams. The late 1980s Athletics were talked about that way. As such, when they lost two of the three World Series in which they played they were seen as somehow disappointing. And, in the one they won, they seen to have merely met expectations. Even if there wasn’t an earthquake in 1989, that A’s club would not have elicited tons of excitement and praise outside of its own fan base.

A team which is not completely perfect, however, but which overcomes its imperfections through application of not only its talent but its determination and sheer force of will, well, that’s something special. And that was the 2015 Kansas City Royals. The best team in baseball. And the best story in baseball, all year long.

Hope you had a good 2015, folks. See you next year.

McCutchen’s sacrifice fly lifts Pirates to 5-4 win, extends Athletics’ road losing streak to 15

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PITTSBURGH – Andrew McCutchen’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning lifted Pittsburgh to a 5-4 victory over Oakland on Monday night, extending the Pirates’ win streak to six games and sending the Athletics to their record-tying 15th consecutive road loss.

The 15 straight defeats away from home matches the Athletics’ record since they moved from Kansas City in 1968. Oakland set that mark in 1986.

The major league-worst Athletics (12-50) have lost five games in a row overall. They are on pace to finish the season exactly 100 games under .500 at 31-131.

“It’s tough,” Athletics manager Mark Kotsay said. “Tonight’s game, we didn’t play well enough to win the game. I don’t want to say we gave the game away but there were a lot of instances where we had a chance to capitalize on opportunities and didn’t do it.”

McCutchen also singled and drew three walks to go with two RBIs. The 2013 NL MVP now has 1,998 career hits.

With the score tied at 4, Ji Hwan Bae led off the decisive eighth inning with a single off Sam Moll (0-3) and advanced to third on Austin Hedges’ one-out single. McCutchen’s sac fly plated Bae.

“I was just trying to get the job done. I understand the situation there,” McCutchen said. “We just need to get the run. I was trying to bear down against a hard thrower and trying to get that run in as much as I can, and I was able to do it and have a good at-bat.”

Angel Perdomo (1-0) retired both hitters he faced. and Colin Holdeman pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his first career save. It was an eventful inning for Holderman as the first three batters reached base, but he struck out Carlos Perez with runners on the corners to end it.

“I began my career as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues but ever since I was switched to relief, this has been the goal, to get a save in the big leagues,” Holderman said.

Pittsburgh starter Johan Oviedo gave up three runs and four hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Oakland left-hander JP Sears did not allow a hit until Mark Mathias’ leadoff single in the fifth but was unable to make it through the inning. Sears was charged with one run in 4 2/3 innings while allowing two hits, walking five and striking out six.

Sears has not allowed more than two runs in five consecutive starts. His nine no-decisions are the most in the major leagues.

Ryan Noda and Brent Rooker had two hits each for the Athletics.

The Athletics tied the score at 4-4 in the eighth inning on pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz’s run-scoring double. Oakland left the bases loaded, though, when Nick Allen hit an inning-ending flyout.

Consecutive bases-loaded walks keyed a three-run sixth inning that put the Pirates 4-3. McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds each worked bases on balls off Shintaro Fujinami to tie the score at 3-all and pinch-hitter Jack Suwinski followed with a sacrifice fly.

The Athletics opened the scoring in the first inning when rookie Esteury Ruiz reached on catcher’s interference, stole his MLB-leading 30th base of the season and scored on Noda’s single. Seth Brown doubled in a run in the third and came home on Perez’s sacrifice fly to push Oakland’s lead to 3-0.

Connor Joe hit an RBI double for the Pirates in the fifth.

The Pirates drew 10 walks, their most in a game in nearly two years.

“We had a bunch of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize (on), but the thing I think I was most proud of is we got down and we didn’t rush to get back,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “We were still patient.”


Athletics: LHP Kirby Snead (strained shoulder) is expected to pitch in the Arizona Complex League on Tuesday, which will be his first game action since spring training. … RHP Freddy Tarnok (strained shoulder) will throw a bullpen on Tuesday.


Pirates catching prospect Henry Davis was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis from Double-A Altoona. In 41 games at Double-A this season, the 23-year-old hit .284 with 10 home runs and seven stolen bases.

“He was performing offensively at a level where we felt like he was more than ready to meet the challenges,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “He improved as an offensive player even since spring training, focusing on the things we were challenging him on. Defensively, he’s made strides too.”

Davis was the first overall selection in the 2021 amateur draft from the University of Louisville.


Athletics RHP James Kaprielian (0-6, 8.12 ERA) will make his first start in June after taking the loss in all four starts in May and face RHP Mitch Keller (7-1, 3.25). Keller has eight or more strikeouts in seven consecutive starts, the longest streak by a Pirates pitcher in the modern era (since 1901).