The Kansas City Royals have made it to the World Series for the first time since 1985. That year, the Royals battled back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Toronto Blue Jays to reach the Fall Classic. What really made that painful was Major League Baseball deciding to extend the League Championship Series from a best-of-five series to a best-of-seven just in time for the ’85 season. Even after losing Game 5 in Kansas City, I was still confident the Jays would win the series as the next two games were in Toronto. They bounced back from a disheartening Game 3 loss to score three in the ninth to win Game 4. They had Doyle Alexander and Dave Stieb to start the last two games, what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot actually! The few memories I have of Game 7 was the Jays falling behind 2-0 in Game 7 before getting one run back. Then Jim Sundberg crushed the hopes and dreams of Blue Jays Nation with a bases-clearing triple off Dave Stieb that bounced off the top of the fence in right field at old Exhibition Stadium. That capped off a 6-2 win for the Royals, who would do the same thing to the St. Louis Cardinals that they did to the Jays, winning Games 5, 6 and 7 after being down three games to one to win the whole enchilada.
Now checking the box score of the game on Baseball-Reference.com (one of the best websites of all time!), there’s quite a lot I didn’t recall. Royals Game 7 starter Bret Saberhagen only pitched the first three innings but he put up three goose eggs before giving way to Charlie Liebrandt. He wound up getting the win by pitching 5 1/3 innings of relief after getting the loss in both Game 1 and Game 3. The Jays would get sweet payback against Liebrandt seven years later by handing him the loss in the deciding Game 6 of the 1992 World Series. Good times!
My favourite memory from that year’s ALCS was the Jays’ come-from-behind victory in Game 2. The umpires blew a call when they ruled Lloyd Moseby trapped the ball in center field on a shoestring catch with two outs in the top of the 10th inning. Frank White was credited with a hit instead to score Willie Wilson to put the Royals ahead by a run. Things were already bleak when Tom Henke gave up a game-tying home run to Pat Sheridan to right field in the ninth. I just remember Bob Costas on NBC yelling “This game is TIED!” and how happy he seemed to be. My hate of Costas was clinched in the 1989 ALCS when he said Elvis had a better chance of coming back from the dead than the Jays did of beating Oakland.
Image from BaseballSimulator.com
Anyways, Moseby helped save the day by singling home Tony Fernandez with the tying run in the bottom of the 10th before scampering home himself on an Al Oliver single. Mr. Zero was the hero! I just remember leaping from the couch at my home before jumping into my Dad’s arms. That moment may have solidified the bond between my Dad and I when it came to baseball.
Checking the overall statistics from the 1985 ALCS, the Royals outscored the Jays 26-25 but Toronto outhit them by putting together a slash line of .269/.319/.372 versus Kansas City’s .225/.294/.366.
Going by batting average, the top hitters for the Blue Jays were Al Oliver at .375 (in eight at-bats) and Cliff Johnson at .368. Rance Mulliniks had the best on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) at 1.189 that was helped by a .364 BA. Tony Fernandez (.333), Jesse Barfield (.321) and George Bell (.280) also had strong postseasons with the bat. On the opposite end of the spectrum were Garth Iorg (.133), Ernie Whitt (.190), Willie Upshaw (.231) and Damaso Garcia (.233).
Pitching-wise, Tom Henke had two of the three wins while Dave Stieb had the other after an eight-inning effort in Game 1. The losses went to Jim Clancy, Jimmy Key, Doyle Alexander and Stieb. The Clancy loss in Game 3 was really galling as manager Bobby Cox thought it would be a great idea for Clancy to pitch in relief in the eighth inning. The first batter Diamond Jim faced was George Brett, who only had five home runs and a 1.321 OPS against him in 79 at-bats (92 plate appearances, so not exactly a small sample size!). Brett, who also had two home runs in the game as part of a 4-for-4 night, singled and would score the winning run on a two-out single by Steve Balboni. That performance by Brett clinched his ALCS Most Valuable Player award.
The best earned run averages were turned in by relievers Dennis Lamp and Jim Acker as they posted 0.00 marks in 9 and 6 1/3 innings respectively. Dave Stieb was next with a 3.10 mark in three starts. The worst ERA’s came from Clancy (9.00), Doyle Alexander (8.71) and Jimmy Key (5.19). Lefty Gary Lavelle had no ERA to speak of after walking the only hitter he faced in Game 2.
The Royals have handed the distinction of holding baseball’s longest playoff drought to the Blue Jays, who have not made the postseason since Joe Carter‘s home run ended the 1993 World Series. I hope some of the Royals karma can rub off on the Jays in 2015.