KANSAS CITY: Having waited 29 years to reach the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs, the Kansas City Royals are threatening to make an unbeaten post-season run to the World Series title.
But blocking the Royals’ path to a fairy-tale championship season are the San Francisco Giants, who seek their third crown in five seasons as the 110th World Series opens Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) at Kansas City.
The Royals, who last won the best-of-seven final in 1985, have become the first major league team to start the playoffs 8-0, a record that only adds to the thrill for long-suffering Royals supporters.
“We definitely take a lot of pride in it,” Royals game one pitcher James Shields said. “This city has been waiting for this for a long time and the fact we’re doing it in the fashion we are is tremendous. It’s definitely a special moment for us.”
If the Royals beat the Giants in the opener, they will match the all-time multi-year major league playoff win streak of 12 games in a row set twice by the New York Yankees, Kansas City having rallied to win the last three games in 1985 to claim their only World Series title.
“The roll that we’re on right now and the confidence and character we have in our clubhouse is going to take us a long way,” Shields said.
“We’ll probably think more about it after the World Series is over, but yeah, guys understand what we have been through and what we’ve done.”
With aggressive base running that saw them lead the major leagues in steals and spectacular diving grabs for outs, the Royals have shocked the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore to reach the finals.
Royals manager Ned Yost sees the test posed by the Giants as little different from what they have already faced.
“They are all big games. You are fighting to climb that ladder. Boom. Boom. Boom. This is no different,” said Yost, who grew up a Giants fan. “But this is the last big series and there are two teams standing, which is special. It’s a great match-up.”
Royals players used social media invitations to buy fans rounds of drinks at local bars to say thanks for their support after what had been the longest playoff drought in North American sport.
“This is a fan base that has been longing for this for a long time,” Yost said. “You see our guys celebrating with our fans, out on the town embracing and enjoying our fans. It has been a really special experience for both.”
And the fact the Giants have a playoff-seasoned roster familiar with what it takes to win the title is no problem for Kansas City.
“We’re not too worried about the experience factor,” Shields said. “We’re more worried about winning games and trusting our ability.”
Giants also eye history
The Giants hope to become the first team to win three titles in five years since the Yankees captured four titles from 1996-2000, a chance that brings San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy great satisfaction.
“You understand how difficult this is,” Bochy said. “I was amazed at the Yankees, at what they accomplished, so it’s very satisfying when you get in a situation where you have a chance.
“I’m amazed at these guys — I’ve told them that, at how hard they fought to get here. It’s a tough road. They have amazed me.”
Giants ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner pondered how a team that went from 1954 to 2010 without a World Series crown could put itself among baseball’s most notable dynasties.
“That’s a huge accomplishment,” Bumgarner said. “It would definitely be a very special thing to be a part of. No matter what happens, it has been a pretty special run.”