The Kansas City Royals are heading into their second consecutive World Series appearance.
Over that stretch, spanning five postseason series, including the 2014 AL Wild Card game, they have suffered only four total losses.
Not including their series loss to the San Francisco Giants, that is.
With the Giants’ seven-game victory in last season’s World Series, they have as many postseason victories (four) as the rest of the league has been able to muster against the Show-Me State royalty.
Kansas City’s current 13-month run of success proves the dominance displayed by the Giants and starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner in their path to the 2014 World Series.
Over the stretch, only the lights-out pitching from Bumgarner, timely hitting of Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval and defensive prowess of Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik has kept the Royals from challenging for back-to-back championships.
After his team’s clinching of the ALCS Pennant for the second time in as many years, owner David Glass addressed the fans:
“Let’s go finish what we didn’t finish last year.”
As if the world needed more proof of Bumgarner’s 2014 brilliance, seeing Dallas Keuchel (likely this year’s AL CY Young) fail in attempt to do what the Giant ace did a year ago is exactly that.
After a strong game-two start in the ALCS – albeit nothing like the shutout Bumgarner posted in-game five of last year’s WS – Keuchel attempted to make a difference in relief of game five.
The Astros’ ace allowed three earned runs in one inning of work – nothing like the five shutout innings for Mad Bum in the deciding game seven a year ago.
Keuchel came into the postseason with high expectations after a fantastic season, and with a win in six scoreless innings of the AL Wild Card game, it appeared that he would be set to deliver.
The Royals offense, however, was just too potent.
In facing the Giants’ big lefty, though, they crossed the plate only once. A seventh-inning game-one solo homer by Salvador Perez was the only tally against Bumgarner’s record in 21 innings.
In an interview after a Monday practice session, leftfielder Alex Gordon joked that in order to win this year’s installment of the Fall Classic he’d have to hit better.
The sentiment was echoed by his teammates, including Cain who, in discussing how long it took to get over the loss, told Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post:
“It definitely wasn’t fun. It definitely was a few weeks, maybe month into the offseason. It didn’t sit well. Not only me, but teammates. It was definitely hard to deal with at first.”
Even with the utter dominance of the eventual World Series MVP and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, the Giants needed an offensive outburst from Pence and Sandoval, as well as a few shining plays made by the middle infield.
Though they hit for very little power, the Giants four-five hitters led an offense that moved the line just enough, while an electric 2015 Toronto Blue Jays was unable to do the same.
All the while that rangy San Francisco second-short combo made just enough plays, like the highlight reel double play in the third inning of game seven, to keep the Royals from putting together rallies like the one they used to turn this year’s ALDS game four, and series, against the Astros.
The effect of their World Series loss is, according to the batter on the fateful double play first baseman Eric Hosmer, will be long-lasting as he told Svrluga:
“It’s always going to be difficult. It’s one of those things where, honestly, even if you go out and win this year, and someone two-three years down the road asks you (about) last year’s World Series, it’s going to be tough.”
Perhaps it was the play of the 2014 Giants that paved the way to this dominant machine that is the 2015 Royals.