Really, the day had been made long before yet another comeback victory over the now-wincing Chicago White Sox on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
In fact, it was already everything you could really want even before first baseman Eric Hosmer prowled back and forth in the dugout in the eighth inning and invoked the words the Royals seem to live by.
Trailing 4-2, Hosmer proclaimed, “OK, boys, this is when the magic happens” and then, presto, they uncorked a three-run rally to win 5-4 to seize first place in the American League Central.
When it was all over, they had outscored the suddenly crumpled White Sox 15-1 in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings this weekend to suggest the team that came to town in first place was more pretender than contender.
This was all very fine stuff.
But it also was secondary to the news that an earlier MRI had revealed no structural damage to the injured knee of catcher Sal Perez, who had had to be helped off the field on Saturday after colliding with third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert.
Instead of being out for a month or longer as might have been feared, Perez is being projected to return in seven to 10 days from what continues to be called a quad contusion.
Even if that turns out to be overly optimistic, it’s in an entirely different realm than it might have been for the most crucial player on the team.
Not only is Perez in himself the one who would be hardest to replace, but combined with the losses of Mike Moustakas for the season and Alex Gordon for at least several more weeks, his long-term absence might have made for an overwhelming cumulative impact.
“That was the real win,” Hosmer said.
If it plays out as appears, this makes for the latest example of how things have changed from the days of the state-of-the-union quip that makes me laugh every time my colleague Sam Mellinger brings it up.
“Don’t ever say it can’t get worse,” then-Royals manager Buddy Bell said amid a 19-game losing streak in 2005.
On Sunday, it seemed like you could think “don’t ever say it can’t get better.”
First, the Royals got to play with a collective exhale.
Then they continue to prosper despite — and in some ways arguably because of – a rash of injuries that sidelined three All-Stars in seven days.
Nobody would draw it up this way, naturally, but for the third time in three days players filling in for the injured were essential to the comeback victory.
A night after driving in the winning run in his second major-league game, the last run in the remarkable seven-run ninth inning rally on Saturday night, Brett Eibner in his third game walked to drive in the tying run in the eighth.
Then Cheslor Cuthbert singled to knock in the game-winning run.
Consider, too, the ongoing contributions of Whit Merrifield (hitting .361 in nine games), and it’s been a staunch stand by untried players at a vital time for the Royals.
Beyond the long-term benefits of them getting this playing time now, their presence goes beyond just filling in adequately.
It also has brought with it some timely pop and versatility when even Gordon has acknowledged how much he’d been struggling, designated hitter Kendrys Morales has gone from a monstrous comeback season to hitting .185 and second baseman Omar Infante simply seems to have little left.
Meanwhile, the guys with everything in front of them add another dimension the Royals may have needed.
While it’s true that the success of the youngsters is enabled in many ways by the culture in the vibrant, welcoming clubhouse of the defending World Series champions, it’s also true that their fresh-faced energy comes at a good time.
“Some of these guys now have been in the big leagues a long time,” manager Ned Yost said. “ … You forgot how special it is to step on a big-league field, and when you get young guys doing it for the first time your eyes are kind of opened up again a bit (as to) how special it is.”
Or as Yost recalled Jim Bouton putting it in the book, “Ball Four:” “Sometimes I forget to tingle.”
But the Royals just won’t let you do that now, as they reminded on a day when more of their distinct magic on the field was only the second-best thing that happened.