Along about the time the Royals were busting open their game against Seattle on Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium, manager Ned Yost caught a glimpse of a curious spectacle on the Crown Vision scoreboard in center field.
It turned out to be him, clapping in rhythm and doing some sort of wacky dance wiggle that added up to what you might call an out-of-body experience.
"I don’t know what I was doing there; I saw it and I said, ‘who, what, where was that?’ " he said laughing, in a corner of the Royals’ clubhouse after the combination of their 10-4 win and Minnesota’s 6-3 loss to Cleveland secured the Royals’ first division title since 1985. "I don’t remember doing that, but I felt pretty good at that time, I think."
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That was part of a spectrum of emotions being experienced by Yost, who a year removed from the label of dunce-dom now will guide the Royals into the playoffs again, hoping simply to win one more game than they did in 2014 as they pushed San Francisco to Game 7 of the World Series.
On one hand, Yost appreciates the profound difference between this achievement and creeping into the playoffs as a wild-card team.
Had the Royals lost to Oakland in the American League wild-card game last year, for instance, he would have felt they hadn’t even made the playoffs.
This time, they’ve made the playoffs with 10 games to play.
"Like 25 of these guys weren’t even born the last time the Royals won a division," Yost said, later adding, "That’s big, big, big to be able to do that, so it’s a very, very special accomplishment."
On the other hand …
"Last year was more special, because it kind of came out of nowhere," said Yost, whose Royals in 2014 were in the playoffs for the first time since 1985. "This year, I expected a night like this from the first day of spring training on."
Still, even though this was "what’s supposed to happen," as he put it, it wasn’t exactly anti-climactic.
Especially after the Royals had gone 8-13 in September entering the clincher.
There have been plenty of reasons for that, Yost believes, some "my fault" for resting players and tweaking the lineup and rotation and bullpen as part of various systems checks.
But after the Royals’ 4-3 comeback win in 10 innings on Wednesday night cut the magic number to two, Yost woke up with a "great feeling" that the Royals would seal it up on Thursday that stayed with him through the day and night.
"These guys, man, once they get that look in their eye, they go get it," he said. "Yesterday, I came in, and it was just a different look (that said), ‘We’ve had enough of this and now (it’s) time to go.’
"And they went."
So as the Royals try to hold off Toronto for the overall home-field advantage in the AL playoffs, it’s time for the final ramp-up for the playoffs.
Whether it’s aligning the batting order or defensive substitutions or pinch-running schemes, Yost wants the team "getting ready for October doing things the way we’d do them in October."
Not that that assures anything.
"The postseason’s the postseason," he said. "It’s all hands on deck. It’s the wild, wild west. I mean, every pitch counts. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this group, so we’ll have a lot of confidence going into the postseason.
"But you just never know what can happen there."
As much as that’s the thrust now, Yost allowed as how he’ll have to accommodate at least one last reprieve in the wake of an anticipated celebratory night by much of his team.
"Tomorrow will be kind of a laidback day; we’ll give some guys some days off," he said, later looking around the champagne-splashed clubhouse and adding, "I’ve got to try to figure how I can field a team tomorrow."
After that ….
"I’ve got my eyes on a much bigger prize," he said.
To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @vgregorian.