Late on Tuesday night, Jeremy Guthrie waded through a crowd of friends and family members standing out the Royals clubhouse. The hallway was jammed, his two sons, Hudson and Dash, trying to stay stride for stride with their father.
Guthrie wore a plain blue T-shirt, its messaged beamed across the country during a nationally televised press conference just minutes before.
“These O’s ain’t Royal,” it said, its cursive inscription in plain sight.
Just hours earlier, Guthrie had allowed one earned run in five innings during the first postseason start of his career. It was a grind, Guthrie would say, a 94-pitch effort that included near calamity during a second-inning jam.
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But here he was, unscathed and unbowed after a commendable outing against a former team — the city where he spent five seasons of his major-league career. And here were the Royals, one victory from the World Series after a 2-1 victory over Baltimore in game three of the American League Championship Series.
“Jeremy Guthrie is a pro, and he’s a veteran,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a guy that you knew that he was going to hold the fort for you.”
Guthrie had not started a game in 18 days. The layoff was long, and mentally taxing. But Guthrie had attempted to stay sharp during the layoff. Five days before his first playoff start, he had stood on a mound and thrown a five-inning simulated game to set himself up for Tuesday.
Still, there were early wobbles. Guthrie served up back-to-back doubles with one out in the second, surrendering the early lead when J.J. Hardy drove a shot deep into the right-center gap. Guthrie then followed by walking Orioles third baseman Ryan Flaherty. But he stranded both runners by retiring Nick Hundley and Jonathan Schoop to end the threat.
“I made some mistakes in the second and they hurt me with those,” Guthrie said. “But overall, I thought it was a grind. I thought they had good at-bats all night long.”
As his pitch count continued to rise, Guthrie managed a perfect fifth inning. He had allowed three hits and struck out two. He was at 94 pitches for the night. In the dugout during the bottom of the fifth, Guthrie made his case to come out for the sixth. But after a brief discussion, the decision was made: the Royals tapped reliever Jason Frasor to take the ball.
“I was running on fumes at that point,” Guthrie said. “And so they made a great decision, I think. Frasor was well rested and came in and was just nasty tonight. I thought his stuff was about as good as I’ve ever seen it.”
Now it was past 10 p.m. inside Kauffman Stadium, and Guthrie was headed back to the Royals clubhouse. Moments earlier, Hudson and Dash had listened to their father talk about his first postseason start. It was, in a way, a quintessential Guthrie start. It was not perfect — not clean at times — but in the end, it was effective.
“They made me work,” Guthrie said, “for everything.”