We have mysteries of the universe, like … is there anybody out there?
We have matters that defy explanation, like … why is it “7 Highway” hereabouts instead of “Highway 7” like everywhere else? (Three years now, I’ve been trying to figure that out).
And then we have the Kansas City Royals, particularly those of the inexplicable last 10 days in which they’ve been diminished by the loss of three All-Star players and prospered by it to play better than they have all season.
When they beat Tampa Bay 6-3 on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, it marked a sixth straight win — and represented the first time since 1988 they had swept a home stand of that length or longer.
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It gave them a 30-22 record – precisely as they were at this time last year.
And it made them 8-1 since a potentially ruinous collision between Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas and 4-0 since catcher Sal Perez was hurt Saturday.
Actually, you might legitimately consider them to be 5-0 in the post-Perez span, given that the Royals were trailing 7-1 in the ninth inning when he had to be helped off the field and went on to concoct, you know, the greatest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history.
“ ‘We’re going to cover it,’ ” manager Ned Yost said. “That’s always been our motto: ‘We’re going to cover it.’ ”
Flinging around such a saying and executing it, naturally, are two different things.
But somehow this hodgepodge looks like a fine-tuned machine.
“We realized it was going to take a little bit more from each and every one,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “It’s a good job by the guys that have been here, a good job by the guys that have come up and just all around a great job by the team.”
That’s exactly right, even if it still can’t quantify why these dynamics in flux have been so seamless.
And this surge is all subject to change, naturally, with the ebb and flow of any season.
But let’s just pause a moment to appreciate what this looks like now compared to what might have been forecast as of May 22 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Just as the Royals seemed to be gaining some traction after a wretched stretch, you’ll remember, Gordon and Moustakas converged on a foul ball and crashed into each other.
In one cruel instant, on a danged foul ball, whatever strides the Royals had made back surely had been dashed.
“Just a devastating moment,” outfielder Jarrod Dyson said.
If you were looking for a symbol of the demise of a redemptive few seasons or a sign that the mojo had just up and disappeared, you could sure see it here: a drastic backfiring of the zealous sort of chase this team has made its way with.
Moustakas would be lost for the season with an ACL injury, Gordon for weeks to come with a wrist injury.
As if that weren’t enough, six days later Perez would be waylaid with a knee injury … and three days after that, instant energy replacement Brett Eibner would go down with an ankle injury.
It was as if all the charm the Royals had enjoyed, and conjured, in winning the last two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series had abruptly come due.
But despite all that, and arguably somewhat because of all that, the Royals keep trudging forward like a zombie.
Cut off a limb, drain their blood, watch eyes melt down their face, whatever.
They just … won’t … stop.
When you get right down to it, it’s not rational to play better without three of your most integral players (while a fourth, Kendrys Morales, was in a dreadful fix that he’s now showing signs of overcoming).
Then again, the Royals have been defying gravity and analytics and convention and logic for a few years now with a counter-culture formula that puts a premium on defense and the bullpen and has come to include a documentable knack for resilience.
As it happens, this rotten mess has just brought out more of the same seemingly inexplicable forces.
Only more so … at least for the time-being and for a pivotal stretch just completed that might easily instead have sent them into a spiral.
How long this is sustainable with a makeshift group, how long Whit Merrifield can look more like an All-Star than a guy who wasn’t even on the Royals’ 40-man roster two weeks ago, are all other questions.
But this we know:
Anchored by core players such as Hosmer and scalding-hot Lorenzo Cain, who seem to have instinctively raised their games in this stretch, the Royals have weathered what figured to be the most turbulent phase.
In the process, they started building a bridge to the time when Gordon (mid-June?) and Perez (another week?) are expected to have a chance to return.
Meanwhile, they’re learning more about what they really have looming in the next wave, including infielder Cheslor Cuthbert, getting most of the starts at third base.
And they are indoctrinating them in ways that could make a difference in the long haul of the season as well as in this brief-but-reassuring run.
If it still seems puzzling, well, the real dilemma is one their opponents have to try to solve.