In spite of the first lengthy rain delay this postseason has seen, and despite the best efforts of Jose Bautista to force a game 7 the Kansas City Royals are American League champions following a 4-3 win over Toronto last night. They will host the Mets in game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
The Blue Jays were known as the home run hitting team coming in. However, it was the Royals showing unusual power early in last night’s game. In the home first inning Ben Zobrist left the lot with a home run to left. In the second, Mike Moustakas hit one to right center that first was a home run, then wasn’t, then was again. The dispute was whether a Royals fan had touched the ball in flight. Under review it was called a home run putting the Royals up 2-0. That was all the Royals could manage against Toronto starter David Price until the 7th. Meantime in the 4th, Jose Bautista crashed the night’s longest wallop to make it 2-1 off Royals’ starter Yordano Ventura. The Royals put up what they hoped would be an insurance run in the 7th. Moustakas led the inning off with a base knock to center. Price got the next two men out with Moustakas taking second on a grounder. In a move that must have had Jays’ fans scratching their heads, manager John Gibbons took out Price who had been cruising along and put in Aaron Sanchez who promptly gave up an RBI single to Alex Rios putting the home team up 3-1.
The Jays rallied against the third Royals’ pitcher Ryan Madson. The fleet-footed Ben Revere beat out an infield hit to lead the inning off. After Madson struck out Josh Donaldson, Bautista struck for the second time in the game, tying it at 3 with a long drive to left. After a walk to Edwin Encarnacion, Wade Davis, the Royals coser was summoned from the bull pen. He retired the two Jays he saw that inning, waiting out a lengthy rain delay to do it. In the last of the 8th, Roberto Ozuna was the second Jays’ reliever to do poorly, and his bad outing cost his team a chance for game 7. he walked the first man he saw, Lorenzo Cain. Cain must have seen film of Enos Slaughter’s mad dash in the 1946 World Series, because as Slaughter did then Cain managed to score from first on a single by Eric Hosmer. Eric who is 26 today gave himself an early birthday present and drove home the winning run for the Royals. But before the celebration could start Wade Davis had to survive an inning that had hearts racing in the stadium and around the country. Russell Martin singled to center starting the Toronto 9th. Kevin Pillar walked. But Davis, as the best closers do found another gear. He struck out the next two men swinging and got a ground out from Josh Donaldson with Jose Bautista waiting on deck. He waited in vain, as did Toronto fans hoping to force game 7.
So with the teams set, the talk can start. The Royals won their only World Series in 1985, the Mets won their last one a year later. The landscape was different then. The Mets still played at Shea Stadium, as they would until 2008. Royals’ Stadium would not be renamed for Ewing Kauffman until 1993 and would not receive a face lift until 2007-09. There were no 24-hour sports talk radio networks. The term “social media” hadn’t been thought of. A World Series ticket could be had for $40.00. Today the lowest price I’ve heard is $750.00 for standing room. Neither stadium comes close to the 55,000 seating capacity Shea Stadium had in 1986. Citi Field holds 44,500 at best, and Kauffman Stadium’s listed capacity is 37,903. One of the talking points over the next few days will be whether the Mets’ amazing young pitching can stop the Royals hitting. While the Jays had awesome power they were not able to hit for average, a failing that cost the Cubs against the Mets. The Royals, who don’t play in a hitter’s park aren’t built for home run hitting and may prove more of a challenge to Harvey, DeGrom, Syndergaard and Matz of the Mets for that reason. Can the Mets hitters do enough damage to the Royals starting pitching to prevent games from becoming battles of the bull pen. The Royals’ pen is clearly better than that of the Flushing 9. How fatigued is Jacob DeGrom, and how troubled is Yoenis’ Cespedes’ left shoulder. He had a cortisone shot in it Friday after leaving the game early Thursday night.
Two World Series figures of the past have birthdays today. Gene Larkin is 53 today. He drove in the winning run in the 10th inning of game 7 of the 1991 World Series. The Twins beat the Braves 1-0 that night in one of the great pitching duels in World Series history. Before that he had broken every baseball record Lou Gehrig ever set at Columbia University. Also, Rawlins Jackson “Rawly” Eastwick turns 65 today. The native of Camden, New Jersey twice led the National League in saves, and was a fixture in the Reds’ bull pen during the 1975 and 1976 World Series, both won by the Big Red Machine. Both of these players’ careers ended at age 31.0