Give the Royals this.
It was a feisty, mesmerizing 11 minutes.
But that was still all it took to plunge them into a semi-desperate scenario after succumbing 4-3 to Cleveland on Monday at Progressive Field in what was effectively the first game of a doubleheader: the resumption of the lurking suspended game in which they were lugging in a 4-2 deficit in the 10th inning.
The circumstances made for a quirky and curious start to this day of immense implications for the Royals, who began the day 1 1/2 games behind Detroit in the American League Central race and could have ended it anywhere from tied with the Tigers to three games back.
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Maybe the built-in deficit made that defeat a foregone conclusion.
But it also doubled the significance of the nightcap, the regularly scheduled game the Royals willed to a 2-0 victory.
Not that the Royals were embracing that sense of heaviness.
“We don’t think in terms of that,” said manager Ned Yost, who declined an invitation to think as observers do. “No, I don’t live in that world … The swings don’t occur to me, because I’m always thinking of the good side of it.
“If I start thinking about the swing, it creates anxiety. It creates all kinds of (stuff) that I don’t need.”
For that matter, the Royals even tried to avert their eyes from a scoreboard that happened to bear favorable results:
The Tigers fell 2-0 to the Chicago White Sox, leaving the Royals just one game back. And Seattle lost 14-4 to Toronto, leaving the Royals two games up in the wild-card standings … with a magic number of five to secure their first playoff berth since 1985.
Yost confessed to taking a glance or two, but players acknowledged not even that.
Unless you count the “Monday Night Football” game between the Bears and Jets that was the focus in the postgame locker room.
“Big scoreboard watching right now,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said, laughing. “Fantasy football implications on the line. This could make or break the season right here.”
The double dip on Monday wasn’t going to quite make or break the Royals’ season.
But the pendulum hardly could have been swinging wider on how the day would end.
So maybe it was appropriate that their immediate future also was tethered to the mystifying one-20th of a game remaining from last month.
“It was weird: that’s the best way to describe it,” Moustakas said.
Only a few hundred stragglers had arrived in the 54-degree chill early enough to watch the reset launch without so much as the time-honored preamble of the Star-Spangled Banner.
That would have been redundant, after all, since it had been performed in the 90-degree heat on Aug. 31 in Kansas City, where the game that took 22 days to play out began.
Starting with Moustakas’ leadoff single, the Royals were in position to tie it, only for Omar Infante to pop up with Jarrod Dyson at second base.
“We made it as interesting as we could without winning the ballgame,” Yost said.
But in the moment, preceding Detroit’s game and the Royals regularly scheduled game with Cleveland (national anthem and all), still left them wobbling two games behind the Tigers and on the verge of fading away in the division.
What came next, though, was a patented 2014 Royals’ victory.
It started with gutsy pitching by Danny Duffy in his first start since the alarming one-pitch outing Sept. 6 against the New York Yankees, a game he left because of a shoulder injury that inspired fear he could be done for the season.
Despite fighting rust, loading the bases with none out in the first and having what he called his worst stuff of the season, Duffy went unscathed for six shutout innings.
Meanwhile, the Royals cobbled together runs, with Eric Hosmer singling home Nori Aoki in the first and Alcides Escobar knocking in Infante in the fifth.
Rookie Brandon Finnegan, Wade Davis and Greg Holland shut down the Indians the rest of the way.
And, shazam, a day that started Aug. 31 and careened into an initial setback Monday turned into a net gain.
An incremental one, but a major gain nonetheless.
All in a day’s work … just a day like no other in Royals history.
To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com