The formula on Sunday for the Royals’ fourth walk-off win of the home stand and 30th comeback victory of the season and fifth straight overall was multifaceted:
First, the 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium required four more of these newfangled “home run” things, for years in such scarce supply for the Royals and now a spectacle to behold.
“The homers were really cool today,” manager Ned Yost said.
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The latest outburst included their first back-to-back-to-back binge since 2006 and two by Whit Merrifield, giving them nine in two days and 122 for the season. They are on trajectory to shatter the club record of 168 set in 1987 … albeit in a season when the baseball is jumping out of parks all over the country at a record rate.
The win also wouldn’t have happened without 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief by the bullpen.
And it needed a Mike Moustakas single to lead off the ninth and a wild pitch to advance pinch runner Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar getting hit by a pitch.
But the most essential element, and the one that perhaps has the most meaningful implications in the chase ahead, was the game-winning double furnished by Brandon Moss.
Suddenly, Moss is stepping out of the void and doing what the Royals had hoped he would.
“I knew with his track record … that he’s going to get hot somewhere down the line,” Yost said. “And when he does, we’re going to ride it. And today was a good example of that.”
Since spending much of the season sputtering below .200 and striking out about once every three times he batted, a designated hitter (though he played left field on Sunday) who couldn’t hit, Moss has been revitalized in the last few weeks — and particularly the last few days.
His ninth career walk-off RBI on Sunday still is part of a small sample size.
But it’s also reassurance that Moss had enjoyed little of this season … and sure wasn’t getting if he ever looked on Royals’ Twitter.
Not that he was in denial.
In fact, embracing his struggles was part of working his way out of it in more ways than one.
“I’m self-deprecating: No one’s going to hate on me more than I hate on myself — and I mean it, to an extent,” he said. “I know when I’m playing bad; we all know when we’re playing bad. To me, I’m confident enough to make fun of myself, but at the same time I’m competitive enough to where I want to be better.”
Moss always has been freakishly streaky.
But it becomes a more challenging mental game when you slump from the start, perhaps especially when you’ve just joined a team and want badly to demonstrate you can contribute.
When you start the season …
“In a huge valley?” the amazingly-pleasant-even-in-bad-times Moss said, smiling and anticipating the question. “Yeah … (You) spend the whole season trying to make up ground.”
“You don’t have really any confidence built in any approach that you’re taking,” he added, “then it’s hard to really build that up because nothing’s really working.”
Even if Moss still reckoned he’d come out of it sooner or later, he was troubled by the when.
“Will it be too late to make a difference?” said Moss, who is 8 for his last 19 with 8 RBIs. “That’s the … thing that was eating me up. Playing all those close games and you know you can make a difference. And you’re not.
“That’s what will eat you up at night.”
It also made for a public clamor for Moss’s role to be reduced.
Which mattered not at all to Yost, who is blessed and at times burdened by a stubborn belief in past performance.
While he acknowledged being confounded by Moss’ funk, he saw nothing that he thought needed fixing other than Moss’ confidence.
“You watch his swing, and, for me, he still had bat speed ,” Yost said. “ … Generally, you can watch a guy who’s really struggling (and) you can see why he’s not hitting. And I could never figure out why Brandon Moss wasn’t hitting.
“I thought every time he went to the plate he looked very hitterish, for (lack of a) better word. Every time he walked up there, I felt like he was going to have a great at-bat and hit the ball over the fence.
“It just never happened.”
Until a few weeks ago, when after what might have been a low point to push off of, Yost believes Moss found a way to let go and trust himself again.
“It can be frustrating, it can be tiring, it can be wearing on you,” Yost said. “And I think he just got to the point where, you know, he said I’m just going to relax and I’m going to do my thing.”
Maybe it was struggling even to hit the ball off the tee the other day that helped free Moss’ mind, as he said earlier this week.
Or maybe he just stopped trying to hit home runs on every swing, as he said Sunday.
Whatever the case, testament to renewed confidence showed up in the game-winning at-bat on Sunday as he faced a 1-2 count.
A few weeks ago, Moss might have virtually assumed he was going to strike out considering he had earlier on Sunday and has whiffed 76 times in 210 at-bats.
“Before the last couple of weeks, I’d get to two strikes (and) not to say that you knew it was over, but you knew you probably missed your chance,” he said, smiling and adding, “Been seeing the ball a lot better and have better balance at the plate, so it’s not a panic any more.”
How long he can sustain the upside, of course, is a matter of conjecture. But at least now Moss will have a frame of reference this season, one that has been absent from this team’s winning formula.