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Examiner
  • Bill Althaus: Day at 'The K' inspires optimism

  • Is there a better way to spend a sunny June afternoon than sitting in the best stadium in Major League Baseball while the hometown team raises a little Cain?

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  • Is there a better way to spend a sunny June afternoon than sitting in the best stadium in Major League Baseball while the hometown team raises a little Cain?
    I don't think so.
    Wednesday's 3-2, 10-inning victory – that was made possible by a game-tying, two-out, two-strike home run by Lorenzo Cain in the bottom of the ninth inning – helped me realize what a special place Kauffman Stadium can be.
    I'll admit that I'm spoiled. I was a kid fresh out of Northwest Missouri State University when I began covering the Royals for KQTV-2 in St. Joseph, Mo., back in 1976.
    Over the next decade, the Royals were arguably the best team in the American League. A gap-toothed kid named George Brett won his first batting title that season and the Royals made the first of a string of postseason appearances against the “Damn Yankees.”
    New York won the first three American League Championship Series before the Royals finally broke through in 1980. They swept the Yankees and appeared in their first World Series.
    Five years later, they overcame a three-games-to-one deficit in both the ALCS and World Series to bring home the lone world championship in team history.
    When the Royals beat the Cardinals for the world championship the team featured superstars like Brett, Frank White and Willie Wilson and a young pitching staff that included Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Buddy Black and the best reliever in the game in Dan Quisenberry.
    When Saberhagen received his World Series ring, I remember him telling me, “I'm going to get one of these for every finger.”
    I wouldn't have argued, because I thought the Royals were headed into another golden era of baseball. Instead, the team dropped from the top of the charts to the lowest depths of the American League.
    The Royals have not come close to appearing in postseason action since 1985 and it's painful for me to go out and watch mediocre to just plain bad baseball.
    But I loved what I saw Wednesday.
    What was billed as a good, ol' fashioned pitchers' duel lived up to its marquee status as James Shields and Tigers Cy Young ace Justin Verlander were both on their game.
    Shields, the Royals hard-luck starter (2-6 with a 2.60 ERA) this season, left the game trailing 2-0 and Verlander turned the game over to the Tigers shaky bullpen with that two-run lead.
    With the best pitcher of his era out of the game, the Royals went to work. Cain hit the game-tying homer with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth and Eric Hosmer drove home the game-winner in the next inning to provide a walk-off ending to a game fans will be buzzing about for weeks to come.
    Page 2 of 2 - After a dreadful and embarrassing May in which the team lose a record 11 consecutive home games, the Royals are 8-3 in June and are coming off an impressive 7-2 home stand. The starting and relief pitching harkens back to the days when Saberhagen and Co. ruled the league, and the offense is coming around.
    “I have faith in our hitters,” the ever optimistic Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Lorenzo gives you a quality at-bat every time he steps to the plate. He almost hit a home run earlier in the game against Verlander.
    “We started this homestand with a loss and came back and finished 7-2 with that great win today. What a way to cap it off. I'm so happy for our fans.”
    The win sent 24,564 fans – many of whom seemed like families with Mom and Dad taking the day off to take the kids to The K – with big smiles on their faces.
    And you can count me among the fans who left smiling and wondering if this team had finally found that elusive Midas Touch that would help turn the rest of the season to pure gold.
    I know it's just one win, but when you add the other six from this homestand along with a look at how the team's pitching has been so dominant, it at least gives you a little bit of hope that one day we might actually get excited about postseason play because it could include the Boys in Blue.
    Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or bill.althaus@examiner.net. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC
     
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