Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An absolutely tremendous win

Down four runs two different times, then down 7-4 with three to play... and a win in 11.

Ozzie Guillen's still staring, blankly, into the long abyss.

Lots of Royals commentators have been saying the game vs. the Twins a few days back, which the Royals also won in 11, was one the team had no business winning, in fact would not have won last year, three years ago, 10 years ago.... I put tonight's contest in the same category. Consider:

  • The team drew 11 walks, with Coco Crisp walking on four straight plate appearances, often after being down 1-2 in the count.
  • The team's crucial sixth run was scored after consecutive walks, both on 3-2 counts (credit Crisp with that RBI... I should mention here that he is, officially, now my favorite player; after he stole second base in the 8th, I could've sworn he was going to score the go-ahead run).
  • Talk about picking up your starter: Kyle Davies gave up six runs in four innings; the bullpen went seven while allowing just one (how 'bout Jamie Wright's three scoreless? That's a good night's work. On a related note: is Joakim Soria still okay?)
  • And talk about picking up your starter (which is exactly what these players have talked about recently, actually): John Buck, hitless in his five previous at-bats, singles in the walk-off run with two outs after Mike Jacobs failed to get it done.

The list goes on, but in conclusion, this was, from start to finish, one of the most remarkable wins of the season. In the early-going, this was the sort of game you wouldn't have minded losing, insofar as that's ever possible. You fall behind 4-0 and 7-4 and wonder whether you shouldn't just be happy to leave still in first place. But the Royals battled and scrapped -- not to use this most anathema of words, but the Royals really scrapped -- and, sometime around the middle innings, you somehow felt something would change. That the White Sox, obviously inferior, would break. And then it occurs to you: these Royals are different from all the others you've known and followed and loathed. These guys are actually good.

If this team -- the 2009 Royals -- don't revert to their old form -- in other words, if they play like they played tonight -- they will contend from here till late September. Perhaps some of you have known this for a while now (a week?). After today, I see it -- and I would have sooner if not for's frustratingly inconsistent streaming. I believe. And I don't mean it like we all meant it in 2003, with that silly catchphrase -- this time I believe with reason.

POSTSCRIPT: Want to know what separates a good Major League hitter from a decent one who somehow rakes in the minors but can never seem to break through? This was actually something one of the Royals broadcasters said, but it was illustrated in tonight's game: the ability to take a strike, i.e. the confidence to hit while down in the count. Major Leaguers can put the same kind of swing on a 1-2 fastball as a 2-1. The moment that brought this to light for me was Mitch Maier's at-bat in the 8th, with Crisp on third, Mark Teahen on first and two out. The pitcher, Scott Linebrink, had walked Crisp earlier and obviously wasn't exhibiting great control. The first pitch was a ball. And then Maier, perhaps feeling he needed to justify himself because the White Sox had elected to intentionally walk Teahen, swung on the 1-0 count and flied out, ending the rally. It was exactly the sort of at-bat his teammates weren't taking all night and the sort the Royals resorted to all the time before this year.

Not saying Maier doesn't belong -- I like him as much as the next guy. Maybe just that there's a reason it took him so long to make it to the big-league team.

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