TOP OF THE NINTH: ROYALS 1 – (2) 4 BLUE JAYS
The two teams that rose, in 2015, from the ashes of two down decades. An ALCS for Toronto, a World Series win for Kansas City. And now, sinking down… down… by the law of averages, back to the bottom. Hopskotch jumping between last place and its closest neighbor—with the dream of 2015 a scrapbook piece for history.
But these Royals, these last few weeks. These last few wins. They onto something?
You’d seen what happened two days prior, unless you hadn’t seen it. The sunlit afternoon game at The K. The two runs down to Boston. The teetering below .500 and that look in each fans’ eyes—that this would be a season of ballpark picnic, of nostalgia, of admiring the grass and the dirt and the blue of those Kansas City caps. But not winning. They’ve done all their winning. That it’s time we head on back to the hiatus decade.
And then: SMACK!! Left-field bleachers. Salvador Perez. Grand Slam, ballgame.
Whoa, they all might’ve thought. We getting that Round 2? That we never really got?
In the ninth tonight in Kansas City, it’s Toronto ahead 2-1. The hot streak on shaky footing. Joakim Soria on the mound. Jose Bautista up after debut-rookie Ian Parmley strikes out, and a group yelling out from the third-base stands.
“Jose Bautista gets a few more boos,” says one of the Royals’ TV guys.
“Oh—those are Moose calls.”
“That’s how I look at it.”
“Only because Moose moved two steps to his right.”
“They watch every move Moose makes.”
And what is a Moose Call? Behold:
Moose Calls bray out along the third-base line, calling out to Mike Moustakas, for a win, for defense, for that push back to .500. Moose-calling out onto the field as it all falls down. As Bautista singles, as Martin walks. Moose-calling as Donaldson singles and Smoak singles. Moose calling until the cows come home, until the half-inning ends—until it’s 4-1 Blue Jays and that little win-streak dream putters out to its (seeming) end.
“Every seat taken here at the K tonight,” they say on the broadcast.
And they’re staying the whole ninth.
BOTTOM OF THE NINTH: ROYALS 5 (1) – 4 BLUE JAYS
Ryan Tepera in from the Toronto bullpen, Roberto Osuna out with anxiety. John Gibbons twiddling his thumbs on the dugout padding, praying to the gods of Shit-Don’t-Let’s-Hit-the-Fan.
Salvador Perez steps in for the Royals, after a line-out from Eric Hosmer. His gold-tipped bleached hair top matching his chain, the Royals’ crown, the stitching on the numbers. And a black ACE 30 patch on his sleeve, and on each the others’— remembering Yordano Ventura and the career that could’ve been. Trying to salvage in a season what they would’ve, should’ve had.
It’s so heart warming to see Royals players constantly tap their Ace 30 patch when they get good plays to dedicate them to Ventura👌🏼
— Allison (@allisonshimel) June 21, 2017
“Set the table up,” they say on the TV, “get a few guys on, coupla bloops and a blast…”
And Perez rips a deep double off the digital scoreboad in left, Dwight Smith missing the catch by inches, bouncing off the wall and stumbling onto the ball landing beneath his feet.
Moustakas pops out to the fading sound of the Moose Callers gone slack.
And so Brandon Moss steps up, with two outs. Last chance for the Royals. The Moose Callers quiet, not yet tapped into their second calling. The Moose Call turned Moss Call:“Mossssssssssss!!”?
1-2 count, 2-2, a battle for a full count, and then Tepera whips a wild-pitch fastball inside. Moss trots on to first base with a walk, Salvy still on second. Gibbons chewing away in the dugout like he knows what all might happen.
And pitching coach Pete Walker comes out of the Toronto dugout to the mound, with a kind of pajama outfit on that says, lifting an eyeshade up to his forehead—We thought you had this, do you not have this?
Tepera stays in. Throws a pitch to Escobar. He drops the bat down, floats a single onto the outfield grass—and we get, at last, the line of the week:
“A lil’ booty knock, how bout that, huh? We hadn’t seen a booty knock in a while.”
And Alex Gordon follows the Escobar Booty Knock with the first pitch lined up the middle. Moss scores. Escobar to third. 4-3 Royals, down by just one.
And Gibbons himself, at last, lumbers out to the mound, gum flopping around in his mouth from cheek to cheek. Hobbling out to snatch the ball from Tepera, signaling Jason Grilli in from the ‘pen. Forty years old, Jason Grilli. Nine home runs given up on the year, tied for most in the majors. And Gibbons shakes his head as he walks back to the dugout, the hangdog look of the Nothin’-Else-I-Could-Do Blues.
“Oooh,” they say on the broadcast. “The sellout crowd is puttin’ a little pressure on the Blue Jays here.”
Whit Merrifield steps in. “We Will Rock You” plays. Grilli misses high, the count goes to 3-1. The crowd on their feet.
Grilli slings a fastball down the middle. Merrifield swings.
And the ball flies on a rope to left, carrying, carrying over the head of Dwight Smith. Onto the warning track and bouncing off the wall. Escobar in to score. The camera view cuts to the behind home. Gordon nearing third as Smith flings the ball to the cutoff man. Gordon goes for it. Gordon charges home. Gordon dives.
And the home crowd cheers for the best slide at The K all year, shades of Eric Hosmer and the 2014 miracle?
The Royals rush in to rip Merrifield’s jersey off.
And back up to .500 they go. 36 wins, 36 losses. Dead even on the year.
They’re back. Are they back?