My more nimble-minded counterpart, Sam Mellinger, caught on to this telling dynamic in the moment Wednesday on Twitter, but it bears some more mention:
One key difference between the Royals and Baltimore in the American League Championship Series, and thus a major reason they will be playing in the World Series next week against San Francisco, was encapsulated in three similarly tame ground balls hit up the middle in game four.
Alcides Escobar led off the Royals first with one that became a base hit and triggered their only two runs of the game.
In part, it was because of his speed. In part it was because of the perception of his speed, which seemed to rattle, or at least hurry, second baseman Jonathan Schoop and keep him from making a clean play.
The Orioles’ Delmon Young would later hit two balls in almost the exact same spots past the pitcher … and each was turned into a double play by Escobar.
This wasn’t just circumstance or fortune.
The Royals’ defense was spectacular, for one thing, and they also seemed to have gotten in the heads of Baltimore in several ways.
"It’s not like something we didn’t do," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said after game four, echoing words he’d said earlier in the series. "It was more of what they did."
Including keeping the Orioles off-balance by forcing the action and even attacking on defense.
It will be a different matter to inflict the same on San Francisco, of course, and the Royals face an interesting psychological test of their own going into that series:
After going 8-0 through the postseason, how do they handle it if and when they finally lose a game … especially if it’s at home?
YOU MIGHT BE A REDNECK IF … YOU CAN’T THROW A BASEBALL ACROSS THE DIAMOND?: Speaking of potential to be flustered, third baseman Mike Moustakas snarfed up J.J. Hardy’s grounder and lasered it to first baseman Eric Hosmer for the final out in game four.
It was a play you’d take for granted under any normal circumstances, but manager Ned Yost’s friend Jeff Foxworthy, ever the comedian, put it in perspective during their phone conversation the next morning.
"He said that if that would have been him, knowing that somebody hit him a ground ball and he had to make a throw across the diamond to get our team in the World Series, he … would have hit a lady about nine rows up in the stands," Yost said, smiling.
HOME COOKING: In the Royals dugout before game four, general manager Dayton Moore spoke about the diverse makeup of this team, which features just three players with previous playoff experience and teems with home-grown players.
Thirteen of the 25 men on the ALCS roster were discoveries of the Royals, ranging from first-round draft picks (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Christian Colon, Brandon Finnegan) to later draftees (Danny Duffy, third round; Greg Holland, 20th round; Terrance Gore, 20th round; Jarrod Dyson, 50th round) to non-drafted free agents (Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura).
"That’s the beauty part of baseball," Moore said. "Players come from all different avenues, in all different slots in the draft. The money doesn’t make a player."
GLORY AND GORE: That’s not another apparently Royals-inspired song by Lorde, unless she foresaw the phenomenon of pinch-runner Gore coming before the song was released months ago.
But at least some of the words are apt:
"In all chaos there is calculation …
"Glory and gore go hand in hand
That's why we're making headlines
You could try and take us
But victory's contagious"
NAMING RIGHTS: Gore can rattle off any number of nicknames he’s been dubbed. Most emphasize his baby-face, like "G. Baby." But he’s still waiting on one that speaks to his speed as detailed in this terrific story by Andy McCullough.
"I don’t really have a speed name," he said earlier this week at his locker. "Somebody ought to give me a nickname."
The Flash? Quicksilver?
Too obvious or too clunky, he said in as many words by laughing.
"Give me a good one: Something catchy," he said. "Just think about it."