By Sam McPherson
The Kansas City Royals just keep on winning in the most impressive fashion, and nothing seems to be able to stop them from advancing in the 2014 American League playoffs right now.
With a Game One victory in extra innings and a Game Two win earned in the ninth inning, the Royals have taken a 2-0 lead on the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Championship Series. Dating back to 1985 — the last time the club was in the postseason — Kansas City has an eight-game win streak in the MLB playoffs right now.
Can you believe it? How did this happen?
Strong Second Half Surge
Kansas City finished the first part of the season before the All-Star break with a 48-46 record, which was a nice start for a team that finished over .500 the season before — it’s first in 10 years.
But the Royals went 41-27 in the second half to clinch the team’s first postseason spot since 1985, even though the offense scored fewer runs per game in the second half and the pitching didn’t improve its ERA, specifically.
Things just began to go K.C.’s way, and not much has changed in October.
Wild Wild-Card Win
The Royals fell behind 7-3 in the AL Wild Card Game to the Oakland Athletics, but they battled back against last year’s best October pitcher, Jon Lester. And then, after falling behind in extra innings, Kansas City battled back against the bullpen with the third-best ERA in the regular season to win the game.
The team refused to die, and the team just didn’t quit. The A’s had seven All-Stars on their roster this year, but the Royals were the better team in crunch time.
So much for All-Stars.
Burying the Angels With Ease
The best team in baseball this season, the Los Angeles Angels, was no match for Kansas City in the AL Division Series. The Royals led almost the entire series, start to finish, save one half inning in the beginning of Game Three. The Angels were the highest-scoring team in baseball, but they couldn’t crack the K.C. pitching staff.
The first two wins, on the road, were both in overtime, and both came via the home run — the Royals hit the fewest home runs in the majors this year, but they’ve powered up in the postseason.
After stealing seven bases to run Oakland’s pitching staff ragged, it was power that buried the beast in the ALDS.
Clipping Orioles Wings
Now, the Kansas City Royals have done it again. They took the first two games of the ALCS on the road against the Baltimore Orioles, and now the team heads back to Kauffman Stadium for three games.
If their good fortune continues, the Royals will clinch a World Series spot by Wednesday night, and wouldn’t that be something?
The Royals were clearly a good enough team to push the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central division title, before settling for the top wild-card slot. Kansas City was good enough to overcome itself against the A’s, and they turned it up a notch to wipe out the Angels.
Now, the Orioles are finding out first hand what all the fuss was about in the other side of the AL bracket.
It doesn’t make any sense, and it doesn’t have to, really — it’s just the new reality of October baseball.
Anything can happen, and for some teams, it often does.