The Kansas City Royals came as close as possible to winning the World Series last year, and that feeling of striving to finish the job never left them this season.
They ran away with the National League Central Division title, they came back on the brink of elimination against the Houston Astros and beat them in five games in the Division Series and then outlasted the Toronto Blue Jays in six games to win the ALCS.
The momentum and the perseverance carried into the World Series, where their Game One 14-inning comeback victory, which included Alex Gordon’s ninth-inning home run, set the tone for the series.
They followed that up with a 7-1 win over Jacob deGrom and the Mets in Game Two to open up a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
They faced some adversity in New York, as the Mets romped 9-3 in the third game on Friday night.
The Mets took leads into the eighth inning in Game 4 and ninth inning in Game 5 and could not hold on in either one. On Saturday night, the Royals got to Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia. On Sunday night, they got to Matt Harvey in the ninth to tie it at two, and then rallied for five runs in the 12th against Addison Reed.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez said of the ninth-inning comeback, in which he got the hit that Eric Hosmer scored on, “You guys know what we do all season. We never quit. We never put our heads down. We never think about, okay, the game is over, no. We always compete to the last out. And that’s what we do tonight. Harvey threw a tremendous game today. He didn’t miss too many pitches. But in the ninth inning Lorenzo Cain took a good at-bat, good walk. Hosmer follows with a double, and after that it was history.”
Perez, who hit .364 in the World Series, won the MVP award. He got the leadoff hit in the 12th that turned into the winning run when Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran and scored the winning run on Christian Colon’s single to make it 3-2.
Perez signed with the Royals when he was 16 years old. He said of his and the organization’s growth in the time since, “It’s unbelievable. I always say we feel like a family here. We’ve got the same group, almost the same group when I play my first year in 2007 in Arizona, the Rookie League. It’s amazing to now win a World Series and see the same guys with you. It’s exciting.”
Royals Manager Ned Yost said of the job Perez did, “He just had a phenomenal series. I think if I had one regret during the whole playoffs was I had to pinch-run for Sal there in that inning. But it opened up the door for us to score five. I really wish that Sal could have been out there to jump in Wade’s arm when we got that final out.”
Yost said of his team persevering from what happened last year to take the championship this season, “You know, last year was such a hard defeat for us in Game 7. And everybody came to Spring Training, I mean, as determined of a group that I’ve ever seen. That they were going to get back and they were going to finish the deal this time. So from day one there was no doubt in my mind that they wouldn’t accomplish it. There was no doubt in their mind that they wouldn’t accomplish it. And the cool thing about this team is everything they set out to accomplish they did. They wanted to win the division; they won it by 11 games. He wanted to win home-field advantage for the playoffs; they did. They wanted to win the World Series; they did. So it’s just a special, special group that doesn’t come around very often.”
Yost said of how the moment of winning it all lived up to what he thought it would be, “Of course it does. Like I said before the game, this is my eighth World Series; I’ve lost 7 of them. So to be able to win this is very, very special, with this group of guys, with their character, with their heart, with their passion, with the energy that they bring every single day, I mean, they leave everything on the field. It was very, very special to be able to watch these kids grow up from A-ball to Double-A to Triple-A, get to the Big Leagues, go through their struggles, have their successes, go through their struggles, and develop the point to be world champions is extremely satisfying.”
On how fitting it was that they grinded it out late to win Game 5, Yost said, “You know what, our guys, you never count them out. And Harvey pitched, I mean, unbelievably. He had four pitches that he was throwing for strikes – fastball, great curveball, great slider, great changeup. And for us to go into the ninth inning down two, it never entered my mind that we were not going to score two or three to take the lead at that point. He was just dominating us up until then.
“But for our guys to go out and find a way to score two at that point, we felt great. And we’ve said it all along, if we can tie the game, lighten the game, we love our bullpen. We feel like our bullpen is going to be able to hold the fort until we can find a way to score. And (Kelvin) Herrera came in and did a superhuman job, three innings. I don’t think he’s pitched three innings all year. And Hoch (Luke Hochevar), his third straight day, coming to give us two great innings to get us to Wade. It’s just a team that never quits, never panics. They just find ways to win baseball games,” Yost said.
Yost said of what he told General Manager Dayton Moore when he saw him afterward, “Took me a long time to see him, but I just hugged him. I thought back to when I was managing Milwaukee. Dayton and I were in Atlanta together. A good friend of ours, outfield coach named Jim Beauchamp had passed away from cancer, and both of us were at the funeral. And I was managing in Milwaukee at that time, and Dayton was a new GM in Kansas City. And I saw Dayton, I shook his hand. They were looking for a manager and I said, ‘What are you looking for?’ And Dayton looked me square in the eye and said, ‘I’m looking for somebody just like you.’ So for us to be reunited and for us to accomplish this thing together is probably one of the greatest achievements in my life.”
Yost said of how happy he is for a guy like Alex Gordon, who’s been here so long, played on some not very good teams, and after almost a decade of being one the game’s most underrated players, finally comes through and wins the World Series, “I’m extremely happy for Alex, and I told Hoch (Luke Hochevar) both, because both of them were here from the beginning that I’m so happy for those guys. I couldn’t have written a better script than Hoch getting a win for this game, after everything he’s been through. And for Alex to finally endure everything that he’s endured, become Gold Glover, All-Star and to finally win a world championship. I’m extremely proud for both of those guys.”
Yost said of Christian Colon, who got the game-winning hit on Sunday night in his first postseason at-bat, “You can imagine his emotions. He’s a guy that last year we took off the World Series roster because he broke his finger, and we didn’t think he was throwing well. This year we kept him on, and the reason we kept him on because we felt as a staff, as an organization, that he was a clutch-type player. He’s a winner. And you put him in a situation, and he’s going to give you everything that he’s got. And for him to come through tonight and get the big hit was just — it was special.
“For Hoch (Luke Hochevar), who’s been through Tommy John surgery, been here from the beginning, to be on the mound to get that last out and get the win in Game 5 to make us world champions for me was special.
“So you kind of celebrate as a manager all those little achievements that are so special,” said Yost.