Their mojo rising from the dregs of a 10-20 start, the bunch that animated the art of the great escape in 2014 and 2015 furnished a new chapter in style on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals hoisted themselves back to .500 for the first time since April 19 with a 5-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in a game that offered a dynamic microcosm of the way back:
They entered the ninth inning trailing 4-1 and lugging an 0-29 record when behind that late.
Then with two outs and Sal Perez on second base, the game would be left on the shoulders of the beleaguered 7-8-9 men in the order:
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Brandon Moss, who has struck out in more than one-third of his at-bats this season; Alcides Escobar, who just in the last 48 hours had creeped above a .200 batting average and Alex Gordon, who entered the game hitting .188 and largely has been a shadow of his best all season.
In the dugout, manager Ned Yost could only hope the Royals could honor the mantra that got them through the berserk American League wild-card comeback against Oakland in 2014 and the elimination-game rally against Houston in 2015 and so many other times on their way to winning that year’s World Series.
“ ‘Let’s just kind of see if we can keep the line moving,’ ” he thought.
Naturally, Moss walked, Escobar blooped a single and Gordon thumped one back through the middle to cut it to 4-3 and bring Whit Merrifield to the plate for what would become a rousing walk-off double.
Suddenly, the Royals are 14-6 in June, the best record in the league in that span, and they are over a hump to a restart plateau at 36-36.
Now, he said, “you can seriously start thinking about something.”
All because the Royals followed their dramatic rally for a victory on Thursday, courtesy of Perez’s eighth-inning grand slam, with an encore comeback for their 21st such comeback this season.
That resurrected resolve has a lot to do with why the Royals are 26-16 since the April fiasco, fresh testament to the fact that the DNA of those special teams still surges through this one.
“Just their fight, their will,” Yost said, echoing terms we heard aplenty in 2014 and 2015. “They don’t quit until the last pitch is thrown. They don’t lose focus. They just keep battling right to the end.”
In this case, it got darker just before the dawn.
Trailing just 2-1 in the seventh, the Royals left two men on as Moss struck out for the 57th time in 155 at-bats and Escobar flied out.
Then they squandered Merrifield’s one-out double in the eighth before Joakim Soria surrendered two runs in the top of the ninth.
Which, as it happened, just set the stage for better theater.
“We’ve done this many times as a team,” Gordon said. “So it’s not like this is an unusual situation for us.”
Confident as they might have been, the numbers suggested otherwise when it came to Moss up with two strikes and two outs.
“You just try to keep your head on the ball and do something — don’t be the last out,” he said. “You don’t want to let your team down, you don’t want to let your fans down and you just try to grind out an at-bat.”
Even after he worked a walk to keep it alive, the odds were dubious.
But then Escobar and Gordon came through, and by the time Merrifield stepped to the plate who could doubt what was about to happen?
As Gordon rounded third with the game-winning run, Moss just hoped Perez wouldn’t run out on the field too soon.
Now here they are, at last back where they started — improbably and dramatically enough to start rendering the seemingly debilitating April an afterthought and conjure visions of a team with a certain something once more.