KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Feel free to publicly wear a 2014 American League champions T-shirt, Jeremy Guthrie. No one is going to be offended as some overly sensitive souls were by the "These O's Ain't Royal" shirt you wore on Tuesday night. Certainly no one in Kansas City. As it says on those new shirts your team proudly pulled on Wednesday, the Royals own the pennant.
Yes, it's true. The team that hadn't played in the postseason in 29 years, the team that was two games under .500 and eight games back in late July, the team that trailed by four runs in the eighth inning of the American League wild-card game two weeks ago, is the American League champion and heading back to the World Series for the first time since 1985.
"Running in from the outfield and seeing in the crowd and seeing all the energy after a lot of years of frustration, it was pretty cool," Alex Gordon said after the Kansas City Royals completed their four-game sweep with Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. "When I was running in, I was just trying to take pictures with my mind. Just living in the moment."
What? Taking pictures in your mind rather than posing for a smartphone selfie? Just living in the moment rather than instantly posting it on Facebook? That is soooooo 1985. After all, when the Royals last played in the World Series, there were no smartphones. No Instagram or YouTube. No Facebook or Twitter. No way to preserve images of that championship year other than with technology that barely exists anymore -- film and videotape -- and that old thing called human memory.
And as Royals fans could tell you, memories can fade some after enough decades.
This autumn is different. This autumn the amazing Royals have produced so many postseason moments that someone in Silicon Valley might have to develop a new technology to record it for future generations.
Alcides Escobar kicking away a throw to the plate to score the go-ahead run in Wednesday's ALCS-clinching game. Gordon crashing into the left-field wall while making a running catch to help preserve the Royals' one-run lead. Mike Moustakas plunging into the dugout suite to make a catch. Gordon, Moustakas and Eric Hosmer slamming game-winning home runs in extra innings. Lorenzo Cain racing across acres of outfield to catch anything and everything. And the bullpen door opening up for Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland to trot in and shut down the opponent.
Record those memories in your mind and whatever device possible, Kansas City fans. You've waited long enough for this. You won't want to forget them.
"This is 10 times better than what you dream as a kid," Kansas City veteran Billy Butler said. "I know every kid has had that dream and it's even more special now that we've got it."
Prior to this month, the focus was on how the Royals hadn't played a postseason game since 1985, the longest drought in baseball. Now, they haven't lost a postseason game since 1985, the longest winning streak in baseball.
They were probably the team given the least chance of winning this postseason and yet they have not lost a game. Since the league championship series expanded in 1985, no team had ever won its first eight postseason games. In baseball history, only the Yankees have won more consecutive postseason games (12, in 1927, 1928 and 1932, and in 1998-99) than the Royals have since 1985 (11).
And to think, it all started when the Royals were down 7-3 in the eighth inning of the wild-card game.
"There are definitely parts of you that think you're not going to get past that, especially when we were down in the eighth inning like that," Butler said. "But we were resilient and we've been resilient all year. That comeback really gave us a lot of confidence and we've been steamrolling ever since."
The Royals are 8-0 this postseason, but it hasn't been easy. They won four games in extra innings. They scored the winning run five times in their final at-bat. They won four games by one run and six games by two runs or less. They have relied on fielding, speed, timely hitting, pitching, a great bullpen and the baseball gods smiling upon them after having been so cruel over the decades.
That was especially the case in the first inning Wednesday. With one out and Norichika Aoki at second and Escobar on third, Hosmer hit a bouncer to first base. Baltimore's Steve Pearce fielded the ball and threw a strike to home for what should have been the second out of the inning. Instead, the ball reached Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph's glove a mere instant before Escobar's leg slammed into it. The force of Escobar's slide sent the ball flying out of Joseph's glove, allowing him and Aoki to score the game's first -- and only -- two runs.
"I think he was out but it was a good hard slide that kicked the ball out," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I mean it was one of those plays that was a break for us. That's just the way things have been going for us. We've been getting breaks."
Said Escobar: "Incredible play. Incredible game. Like every game."
And because of those games, the Royals are back in the World Series. Their last World Series was so long ago that Bret Saberhagen pitched two complete games and the Royals used just six pitchers in that entire 1985 series. The Orioles used six relievers just in Game 1 of this ALCS. No starter on either team pitched as many as six innings in this series.
That's baseball today. Relievers trot out of the bullpen door like clowns spilling out of a circus car. And Kansas City's bullpen is as good as it gets. The Royals' relievers were 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA in the ALCS, with Herrera, Davis and Holland pitching 3⅔ scoreless innings Wednesday in relief of Jason Vargas.
"There's no better weapon. Speed, defense and a great bullpen," Yost said. "It goes back to the way the game was really meant to be played. Athletic players, speed, defense, the ability to manufacture runs, not relying on home runs, and really good pitching. It's an exciting brand of baseball and I think if you asked anyone who watched us this series, they would agree."
They would, though right now, they're probably lining up to buy some AL pennant and World Series T-shirts. They've been saving up for them long enough.
"[The fans] deserve this just as much as we do," Moustakas said. "They've been waiting a lot longer than most of us have and it's an awesome feeling to be able to bring this American League championship to Kansas City. But now we have to go out and find a way to win the World Series."