Tonight is the most important game in the playoffs so far. It may seem weird to say that when three of the four divisional series went the maximum five games, but this feels like a game seven. No team has even allowed the other to tie up the series at 3-3 after being up 3-1 and gone on to win game seven. Regardless of your opinions of whether momentum exists, that's just what's happened.
Besides, there' more at stake here than just a game. This is David Price's chance to prove that he can pitch in the postseason, John Gibbons quest to break the record for most pointless pitching changes in one series and the Royals chance to thumb their collective noses at all stat nerds all around the country.
That last point is why I like Kansas City so much. They don't hit a lot of homers, they don't walk very often, their pitchers don't strike guys out, yet they pull games out with the same formula every time: score a few runs early by hitting singles and stealing as many bases as possible. Then play great defense until they can hand it off to the bullpen in the seventh inning. They're the only team except for maybe the Cardinals who could have gone through the debacle that was Johnny Cueto while barely allowing it to affect their season after the trade deadline this year.
The Blue Jays are the polar opposite in styles of play. They're built on guys hitting bombs, leading the league with 232 homers this year. While the Royals win by outlasting their opponent, the Jays crush, pillage and destroy their opponents with both their lineup and dominant starting rotation. And that's why this series is so much fun. The contrasting styles make anything possible.
Back to the Royals. What I mentioned in two paragraphs ago all goes into the Cardinals-esque way they've been playing this year. I'm still bitter about how Kendrys Morales looked six levels beyond washed-up last year with the Twins and suddenly he's getting clutch playoff hits with the Royals this year. There is never a situation where they're out of a game.
In fact, the eighth inning in game four against the Astros was the best representative of their season. Down 6-2 with Will Harris pitching and the following happens: Rios singles, Escobar singles, Zobrist singles, Cain singles, driving in Rios, Hosmer singles, Zobrist, Morales reaches on a tough error by Carlos Correa and two more score. Suddenly in the matter of about 15 minutes the game's tied.
But it was what happened next that was the most amazing. After a Moustakas strikeout, Drew Butera came up. Butera is the definition of an all-field no-hit catcher. He started his career on the Twins and was basically that kid in little league who struck out every time he came to the plate. His career batting line is .185/.245/.266. He has 22 more career strikeouts than hits. What I'm trying to say is that he's really horrible.
Watching the game, I was expecting what I'm guessing lots of Twins fans were. A three pitch strikeout. But something weird happened. He took three balls and fouled off about nine more before drawing a tough, demoralizing walk. It turned out to be important, too as the next batter, Gordon grounded out, scoring Hosmer.
That's what's weird about the Royals, and that's why I'm taking them tonight to go to the World Series.