Royal inspiration


Jarrod Dyson said between games that he didn’t think the American League Championship Series was going back to Baltimore, and that the Orioles didn’t think so, either. And then Dyson, who was was probably right the first time, kept trying to qualify it by prefacing everything with a, “If we win Game 3.”

The Royals won Game 3, and why not. They’re undefeated this October. Three questions, though: Why would anyone ask Dyson, of all the Royals, if he thought the series was going back to Baltimore, why would anyone care what Dyson thought, and what did the reporter expect Dyson to say? Yes, we’re going to lose two of three, which is good because last time I didn’t get to do a Homicide On The Street landmark tour of the city?

There’s been no one who’s done as little as Dyson in helping the Royals build a 3-0 lead, with the possible exception of little-used reliever Tim Collins or Christian Colon, not even pinch-runner Terrance Gore, who has stolen successfully in all three of his attempts. Like Gore, Dyson has attempted to steal three bases, but has been caught twice, That 1-for-3 isn’t very good on the bases, but it’s better than Dyson’s average at bat, where he’s 0-for-5 this postseason.

Dyson is the one Royal the Orioles have actually been able to push around — literally. It was Dyson’s leg that second baseman Jonathan Schoop nudged off second base for one of Dyson’s caught stealings.

But Dyson did as much to help the Royals win Game 3 as he has the entire postseason. He pinch-ran for Norichika Aoki in the sixth, went first to third on an Eric Hosmer single (any Royal not named Billy Butler could have done so standing, and Butler would have made it with a slide) and scored the winning run on Butler’s sacrifice fly.

“I’ll just tell you this, man,” Dyson said before Game 3. “If we win Game 3, it’s going to be hard for them to sit there and look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘We can win the next four.’ That’s tough to do, man. Everything must click. I’m just being honest.”

If only Diogenes had looked in the Royals’ outfield in the late innings.

The truth is the Royals are the perfect representative for this postseason, where the difference between winning and losing is often indistinguishable. On the last day of September the Royals were three outs away from their season ending. Now they’re one win away from going to their first World Series in 29 years.

Who can explain it? One of their best players is third baseman Mike Moustakas, a disappointment for three seasons who is suddenly going Lorenzo Cain on the railings to catch pop-ups and winning games in extra innings with home runs. Five months ago Moustakas wasn’t doing any of that, and was so bad the Royals sent him to Omaha for 10 days because he was hitting .152 in his first 139 plate appearnces. As of May 22, Moustakas had a .669 OPS in his first 414 big-league games, according to rotoworld.com.

Moustakas hit .212 this year and made 19 errors, and had a WAR, according to ESPN.com, of 0.4, which made him barely better than whoever the Royals played in his stead while he was in Omaha. Moustakas’ 0.4 ranked 304th, behind such luminaries as Nick Punto (.207 average, .293 slugging), Matt McBride (2 homers in 31 at-bats), Munenori Kawasaki (.258, .296 slugging percentage) and Anthony Recker (.201, 7 homers).

Maybe that’s part of what makes the Royals so fascinating and attractive this October. The divide between success and failure is so narrow, and they’ve crossed it, an 88-win small-market team playing like a 100-win big-payroll team. They’ve won seven straight games, four in extra innings, three by one run. The Royals have played so long on the ledge it doesn’t scare them to look down.

Maybe next year it could be the Pirates, or Rays, or even the Cubs. Maybe if the A’s advance one playoff round they could win the next. Maybe if the Dodgers just get the right man in charge, they could win a playoff round, too.

Maybe. Because if the Royals can, why not?

  • Royals 2, Orioles 1: If you’re in Kansas City, Wednesday might be a good time to follow Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer on Twitter. After their ALDS win, Hosmer tweeted out the post-game party site and then picked up the tab for fans. Hopefully he picks a place with outdoor seating for their ALCS celebration, because it’s going to spill over. Give much-maligned manager Ned Yost some credit for Game 3. He removed starter Jeremy Guthrie after five innings, and his preventive medicine approach worked — the Royals’ bullpen set down 12 in a row. Then he pinch-ran for Aoki and Dyson’s run was the winner. For the postseason, the Royals’ bullpen has a 2.01 ERA, but two of those runs were given up by starter Yordano Ventura in the wild-card game. Tuesday’s winner was Jason Frasor, who’s pitched three scoreless innings this postseason. Frasor is 37, just 5-foot-9, and in his 11th season. The first 10 were without playoffs for Frasor and No. 11 didn’t appear promising with the 95-loss Texas Rangers. But the Royals dealt for him in July, and after 647 regular-season games, he appeared in his first postseason. Bet he didn’t expect it would be like this.
  • Giants 5, Cardinals 4: Bob Weir and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead sang the national anthem with Giants third base coach Tim Flannery, and then what a long strange trip the next 10 innings were. The Giants got four in the first and didn’t score again until the 10th. Travis Ishikawa knocked in three with a bases-loaded double on which Randal Grichuck went for the carom instead of the catch, which pleased starter John Lackey not at all. Kolten Wong doubled and tripled — he has three hits in the series, none of them singles — and Grichuck homered to tie it. The Cardinals got three perfect innings from their queasy bullpen before losing to a rally of Brandon Crawford (0-for-10 in the series), Juan Perez and Gregor Blanco. Maybe only the Orioles can empathize.
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