BAKC TO BAKC: Royals win AL again, eye WS win
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals are no strangers to winning pennants, but the old, nonchalant adage of "been there, done that" doesn't apply here.
Winning pennants never, ever gets old, and when Kansas City secured the final out Friday night in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series to beat Toronto, 4-3, there was no indication that the team was used to this, or unaffected by the chaos that had taken over every corner of Kauffman Stadium.
The party was on, again.
"I think the fan base really got their share of the entertainment tonight, with that game," second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "We were breathing easy once we finally saw that we had won the game. Just an incredible feeling to go from that low to winning it."
Maybe that's why this particular celebration seemed just a little louder, a little crazier, a little more raucous than those in the past. This game was stressful until the end, with closer Wade Davis figuring out a way to strand a couple of very feisty baserunners in scoring position to seal the win.
Even the last out wasn't easy. To get there, Davis had to get through Josh Donaldson, the favorite to win the AL MVP Award. Donaldson sent a ground ball to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who tossed it across the field to Eric Hosmer.
And, finally, a big sigh of relief, followed by an hour of joyous celebration. Catcher Salvador Perez threw his mask in the air, pounded his fist into his glove and bolted for the mound. Davis jumped into Perez's arms, and the two soon became the centerpiece of a team-wide jumping, dancing, screaming scrum.
When a team clinches a pennant at home, it does most of its celebrating on the field, where friends, families and, most importantly, fans can be a part of the celebration. Such was the case at a very loud Kauffman Stadium, where Queen's "We Are the Champions" blared over the loudspeakers while players embraced their loved ones and sent fist pumps toward the packed stands.
At one point, Perez emerged from the dugout, holding a full cooler of Gatorade on the top of his head. He ran to the middle of the celebration and dumped it on his teammates -- a precursor to the liquid celebration that would take place later in the clubhouse.
"This is unbelievable," Perez said, surveying the scene on the field. "What a crazy day."
The party went on for about 20 minutes while the stage was being set up for the presentation of the AL trophy. Major League Baseball executive and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson opened the ceremony by presenting the trophy to Royals owner David Glass.
"I am honored to accept this trophy on behalf of the Kansas City Royals organization -- the players, coaches, the front office," Glass said. "But I'm really proud to accept this on behalf of you, the fans. Without you, this would not have been possible.
"Now let's go finish what we didn't finish last year."
Alcides Escobar was soon ushered on stage to accept the ALCS MVP Award for hitting .478 (11-for-23) in the series, to go along with three extra-base hits, five RBIs and six runs scored.
Manager Ned Yost addressed the crowd, keeping his comments to the fans brief, but poignant.
"Last year, we were happy to be there," Yost said, pointing to the World Series logo on the side of his AL champions cap. "This year, we expected to be here."
The celebration eventually moved inside to the clubhouse, where dozens of bottles of champagne were waiting for the team, uncorked and ready to be shaken, spilled and sprayed.
It was a joyous release after a stressful game, one that could have easily shifted in the favor of a Blue Jays team that simply refused to give up.
The meaning of this particular win was not lost on the Royals as they emptied bottle after bottle.
"To get that job done that Wade did for us, we were elated," Zobrist said. "We couldn't even talk."
Fortunately for the Royals, words are secondary to actions, and they did just enough to extend their reign as kings of the AL.