The St. Louis Cardinals came to town on Monday with enough invading fans to make any crowd advantage a tossup in the sellout audience of 38,478 at Kauffman Stadium.
“Just think of them as economic activity $$,” Mayor Sly James, who attended the game, playfully wrote on Twitter in response to a question about what could be done about the horde.
Visible and vocal as they were, those numbers have evened out here since the days it basically became Busch Stadium West.
Then the Royals’ renaissance provided something Cardinals fans could never fully appreciate: the sensation of a rebirth after more than a generation without a postseason appearance.
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It’s ultimately just guesswork, but there appeared to be more fans in Royals or neutral gear than in red for what became an 11-3 Cardinal clobbering of the Royals.
“We’ve always believed that the Cardinals have one of the very best fan bases in baseball, and not only in baseball but in the history of baseball,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said before the game. “It’s a terrific environment to play in. Everybody in baseball understands that and acknowledges that.
“But we’re also very proud of our fan base. And I believe it’s extremely passionate and supportive, and they’ve demonstrated that.”
Meanwhile, entering this first in a four-game home-and-home series, the Royals themselves had a chance to do something more substantial.
They had a chance to demonstrate that they’re the team of the moment, or even of the last few years, in a state that never will forget who won the 1985 World Series — and will forever be divided between those who blame it on Don Denkinger and those who realize the Cardinals were free to keep playing after his blown call in Game 6.
After all, the Royals have made more recent World Series appearances (2014 and 2015) than the Cardinals (2011 and 2013) and had a better record this season (57-53 vs. 55-56) going into the game.
More to the point, the Cardinals had languished below .500 since June 3 and had been sabotaging themselves with sloppiness and mental mistakes uncharacteristic of the organization’s rightly proud past.
The lax play was symbolized by reliever Trevor Rosenthal in a game last month against the Mets when he failed to cover first base with two outs in the ninth inning, allowing the winning run to score.
But any such notion of the Royals surpassing the Cardinals in recent history looked silly on Monday.
Because for a worrisome second straight day, the Royals were beset by mistakes that made them look careless and lackadaisical (when the opposite likely is true) as they try to compensate for catcher Sal Perez being on the disabled list.
On the heels of falling behind 7-0 after a slapstick second inning in what became an 8-7 loss in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, instead of picking up momentum from the 9-1 win in game two the Royals stumbled right back into that ditch.
This time it was 7-1 after four innings because Ian Kennedy allowed two hits and a walk to open the frame, and then shortstop Alcides Escobar made a rare error on what appeared to a likely double-play grounder.
Make that play, and the entire dynamic of the inning and game changes.
But he didn’t, letting one run in and paving the way to more — including Dexter Fowler coming home when catcher Drew Butera tried to pick him off third only to hit Fowler and have the ball go into left field.
Then came Matt Carpenter’s three-run homer, and the Cardinals were well on their way to an even record for the first time in more than two months as the Royals were closer to .500 in their own right and left to ask themselves some questions:
Are these gaffes just a string of oddities that are part of the ebb and flow of the season, an annoyance but not a trend? Are they something more? Or a simple sign of pressing without Perez?
Might Escobar, who is back to struggling at the plate (2 of his last 28) benefit from a day off after starting his club-record 282nd straight game?
It’s no shame to lose, of course, but it’s something else to lose by not being fundamentally sound.
Especially against a team that had been quite capable of doing that itself but never was pressed on Monday, when Royals fans showed up better than their team did.