Taking the Crown: The Kansas City Royals' Amazing 2015 Season

Taking the Crown: The Kansas City Royals' Amazing 2015 Season


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While the Kansas City Royals may have come out of the blue with their success in 2014, the 2015 edition of the team had high expectations and they met them to the fullest degree in winning the 2015 World Series — the organization's first in three decades. Buoyed by a dominant regular season in which they held first place in the American League Central beginning on June 8 and never looked back. Anchored by a major league record seven All-Stars and boosted by the mid-season acquisitions of Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, this historic team would not be denied on their way to the title.

Packed with unique analysis from veteran Kansas City writer Matt Fulks and vivid color photography, Taking the Crown guides fans through the Royals’ amazing journey, from key off-season acquisitions to the Royals’ thrilling come-from-behind ALDS win versus the Astros, from their out-slugging of the powerful Blue Jays in the ALCS, all the way through their incredible World Series triumph over the Mets. This commemorative edition also includes feature stories on Royals’ stars Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and other fan favorites, and is a must-have keepsake for Royals fans for generations to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629370811
Publisher: Triumph Books
Publication date: 11/15/2015
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,280,401
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Matt Fulks is a freelance writer and editor and a regular contributor to various publications, including the Kansas City Star and Royals Baseball Insider magazine, the official publication of the Kansas City Royals. In recent years, he has also written for CBS Sportsline, the Denver Post, and USA Today Sports Weekly. He is the author or coauthor of 16 books, including projects with Royals legends Denny Matthews, Frank White, and Fred White. He lives in Overland Park, Kansas. Dayton Moore is the general manager of the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals. Since taking over in 2006, Moore has rebuilt the Royals organization into one of baseball’s best. He lives in Leawood, Kansas.

Read an Excerpt

Taking the Crown

The Kansas City Royals' Amazing 2015 Season

By Matt Fulks, Joe Funk

Triumph Books

Copyright © 2015 Triumph Books LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63319-534-9


World Series

New York Marathon

Royals Outlast Mets in Dramatic Game 1 Victory

If Game 1 was any indication, this is going to be a long, dramatic, and spectacular World Series.

It took more than five hours, 14 innings, an inside-the-park home run, a pitcher who was throwing without knowing that his father had passed away a few hours before, and yet another Royals comeback on a homer by one of the team's cornerstones, for Kansas City to take the first game of the World Series, 5–4, in front of an electric crowd at Kauffman Stadium.

Edinson Volquez pitched a typical Edinson Volquez game, giving the Royals' offense a chance. Volquez gave up three runs and six hits in six innings. He was pitching, though, unaware that his father Daniel died earlier that day from heart complications at the age of 63. He came out of the game after the sixth, shortly before the Royals tied it at 3–3. That's when Volquez learned about his father.

He is the third Royals player to have a parent die during the season. Mike Moustakas' mother Connie lost a battle with cancer and Chris Young's father Charles died in September.

"Most guys didn't know. I found out in I think it was the 14th inning, right before we won the game," Alex Gordon said. "I was standing next to [manager Ned Yost] and he told me. He said, 'Let's win this game for Volquez.'

"In the locker room during the celebration we all talked about it. That's tough. But we're a family, and we rallied around him and picked him up."

The teams were tied at 3–3 until the top of the eighth inning, when Kelvin Herrera gave up a two-out single to Juan Lagares, who stole second on the first pitch to Wilmer Flores. Then, uncharacteristic of the Royals during this postseason, Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer misplayed a ball grounded by Flores. The error brought in Lagares and broke the tie.

With their backs against the wall, the Royals did what they did best in the playoffs — make a comeback. Mets manager Terry Collins turned to his closer, Jeurys Familia, who had 43 saves during the regular season with a 1.85 ERA. He hadn't blown a save since July 30, and he'd given up only two hits in 10 postseason innings. With one out, though, Alex Gordon, one of the cornerstones in general manager Dayton Moore's building plan for this organization, launched a monstrous 438-foot home run to straightaway center.

"He doesn't give up home runs, so we were all shocked by it," said Collins. "We liked where we were at."

After neither team scored in the 10th and 11th innings, Royals manager Ned Yost brought in Chris Young, who was scheduled to start Game 4, to pitch the 12th. Young was lights out. He faced nine batters and retired nine.

"It was a great sign by Dayton Moore late in the spring," Yost said of Young. "He's pitched so well for us all year long in any role we've asked him to do. The thing that's so special to me is the confidence we all have in him. For him to go out and pitch the way that he does under any circumstance has just been a big lift to us all."

Alcides Escobar led off the bottom of the 14th by reaching on an error by Mets third baseman David Wright. The Royals took advantage. Ben Zobrist singled and pitcher Bartolo Colon intentionally walked Lorenzo Cain. Hosmer lifted a 2–2 pitch to deep right field, which allowed Escobar to tag from third, giving the Royals the win.

"Obviously, I wanted to redeem myself for what happened earlier," Hosmer said. "That's the beauty of this game, you always get a chance to redeem yourself. I just can't thank my teammates enough, [Gordon], and everybody picking me up right there and giving me another opportunity."

Coincidentally, Escobar scored the game's first run. The hype leading into the series was about the invasion of New York's "Fab Four" starting rotation — Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. It was enough that it could've left the Royals feeling like Elvis when the last "Fab Four" invaded New York. Much like Elvis, then, Escobar showed immediately that the Royals weren't going to worry about the hype, at least not against Harvey, the Game 1 starter.

Escobar, who's become known throughout this postseason for swinging at the first pitch with great results, got the greatest result possible in Game 1, as he drove Harvey's offering to deep left center. The ball landed between the left fielder Michael Conforto and center fielder Yoenis Cespedes and then went off Cespedes' foot. By the time the ball got back to the infield, Escobar had crossed home plate with an inside-the-park home run.

The win marks the first time in four attempts that the Royals have won Game 1 of a World Series.

"Two things you don't want in Game 1 of the World Series: one is to go 14 innings and the other is to lose," Yost said. "To find a way to grind that way out against a great team, both teams were matching pitch for pitch. We had opportunities, they'd make big pitches and get out of innings. But to grind through that game and to win it in the 14th inning was big."

Cueto's K.C. Masterpiece

He's the First AL Pitcher to Throw Complete Game in World Series Since 1991

It would be difficult to find a Royals pitcher to match Johnny Cueto's performance in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros, when he gave up two hits and two runs in eight innings. But, of course, Cueto matched, and perhaps, surpassed his ALDS outing with a complete-game, two-hitter against the New York Mets in Game 2 of the World Series. The win gives the Royals a two games to none lead in the series.

With the exception of one shaky inning, Cueto was brilliant in a game that the Royals won 7–1, beating the Mets' nearly unbeatable Jacob deGrom in the process.

"Tonight was everything we expected Johnny to be," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "He was on the attack. He kept the ball down. He changed speeds. It was just a spectacular performance by him."

After allowing only one base runner through the first three innings, Cueto gave up two walks in the fourth — a leadoff pass to Curtis Granderson and then one with one out to Daniel Murphy. And then after Yoenis Cespedes reached on a fielder's choice, Lucas Duda blooped an RBI single to left that scored Murphy and gave the Mets a 1–0 advantage. It was Duda's second hit of the game and last that Cueto would give up.

For the first four innings, deGrom, a young fireballer who won 14 games and had a 2.54 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 191 innings during the regular season, baffled Kansas City hitters. DeGrom retired the first seven Royals until walking Alex Gordon with one out in the third. But the Royals, as they've been known to do against top pitchers, broke through during the middle innings.

In the fifth inning, Gordon led off with his second walk of the night followed by back-to-back singles for Alex Rios and Alcides Escobar, the latter of which scored Gordon and tied the game at 1–1. After Ben Zobrist moved Rios and Escobar to second and third, respectively, and Lorenzo Cain lined out to center field, Eric Hosmer grounded a two-run base hit up the middle that gave the Royals a 3–1 lead. Kansas City added to its lead later in the inning when Mike Moustakas got a base hit that scored Hosmer. All told, the Royals sent nine to the plate in the inning against deGrom.

Cueto, meanwhile, continued to show the dominance Royals fans expected to see with every start. Starting with the final out of the run-scoring fourth inning, Cueto retired 13 straight Mets batters through the eighth inning.

After the eighth Cueto pleaded with Yost to let him go back out. Yost told Cueto that Wade Davis was going to go out for the save, "but keep your head in the game because if we score a couple runs, I'm going to let you go back out."

Well, the Royals did just that. The first three batters reached for Kansas City against reliever Jon Niese. Moustakas started with a grounder to right field that went under the glove of a diving Duda. Salvador Perez then doubled down the left-field line. With runners at second and third, Gordon got a two-run double in shallow left that rolled slowly away from shortstop Wilmer Flores, scoring Moustakas. A deep sacrifice fly by Paulo Orlando and a two-out triple to dead center by Escobar gave the Royals three runs in the inning and a 7–1 lead.

The Royals, Hosmer said, knew Yost's deal with Cueto, and they wanted to scratch across two more runs.

"The offense and all the boys in the dugout really wanted to see him go back out," Hosmer said, "so I'm glad we could put up those runs so he could go back out and finish the job."

And finish it he did. Cueto induced ground-outs by the top two hitters in the New York lineup — Granderson and David Wright — giving him 15 consecutive outs, before walking Murphy. Cespedes, though, flied out to Orlando in right on a 2–0 count, giving Cueto the first complete game by an American League pitcher in the World Series since Jack Morris went the distance for the Minnesota Twins against the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 series.

"You saw it even in the last inning — still changing speeds, throwing strikes, using his change-up, pitching to both sides of the plate," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "We've just got to worry about making some adjustments in our lineup to start getting some hits. He's good. That's why they got him."

With his ALDS Game 5 outing and now Game 2 of the World Series, Cueto, who's the first pitcher from the Dominican Republic to throw a complete game in the World Series, is the only Royals pitcher to go at least eight innings in a postseason game since Bret Saberhagen threw a complete game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Thor Throws Down the Hammer

Mets' Syndergaard Pitches with Authority, Silences Royals

There's a great scene in the movie Bull Durham, when Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh gets in his catcher Crash Davis' face and says, "I wanna announce my presence with authority."

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard wasn't born when Bull Durham came out in 1988, but that's essentially what he did with his catcher Travis d'Arnaud when discussing their strategy against leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar. The plan nearly backfired as the Royals took an early lead in Game 3 at Citi Field, but the contest turned into all Mets as New York won 9–3, winning its first game of this World Series.

Escobar, who had an inside-the-park home run on the first pitch in Game 1 against Matt Harvey and then flied out to center field on the first pitch of Game 2 against Jacob deGrom, was ready to take a hack against Syndergaard, when the 98-mph fastball went sailing way high and inside, sending Escobar to the ground. After watching the second pitch, a curveball, cross for a strike, Escobar eventually struck out on a foul tip.

"I didn't like it at all. He even said he had a plan," Escobar said, referring to how Syndergaard pointed out in interviews before the game that he had something up his sleeve. "I feel like if that's the plan, it's a stupid plan. That's it. I don't think any pitcher is going to throw a ball at someone's head at 98 mph on the first pitch of the game. If he wants to do that, throw it at my feet, throw it anywhere, but not at my head."

Syndergaard's plan worked for the moment, as it kept Escobar off balance, but it fired up the rest of the Royals. Kansas City took a 1–0 lead when Eric Hosmer grounded out, scoring Ben Zobrist, who doubled and then went to third on a hit by Lorenzo Cain.

The lead was short-lived, though, as Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura gave up a two-run homer to David Wright with no outs in the bottom of the first.

The Royals came right back in the second and appeared to rattle Syndergaard with three consecutive singles by Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and Alex Rios, whose hit scored Perez but Gordon was thrown out — after a challenge play — at third base. Following a perfect sacrifice bunt by Ventura that moved Rios to third, Rios scored on a ball that got by d'Arnaud and went to the wall. For Royals fans it's too bad he scored that way because Escobar then singled off Syndergaard on the second pitch.

Syndergaard settled down after that, though, and went six innings en route to the win.

The Mets took the lead in the bottom of the third and didn't look back. Ventura, who didn't seem to have his best stuff, gave up a leadoff single to Syndergaard in the inning before Curtis Granderson came up and lined a homer to right that gave New York a 4–3 lead.

New York put the game out of reach — at least on this night — with a four-run sixth inning. Two of the runs came after a mental mistake by relief pitcher Franklin Morales, who was seeing his first inning of work in the World Series. With one out and one run across in the inning, the Mets had runners at first and third, the slower of the two being Juan Uribe at first. Granderson grounded the ball back to Morales, who turned to second but instead of throwing for a possible double play, he turned toward home, and then turned back toward second, making a wild throw past the bag. Everybody was safe. With the bases loaded, manager Ned Yost brought in Kelvin Herrera, who gave up an RBI single to Wright and a sacrifice fly to Yoenis Cespedes, which gave the Mets a 9–3 lead.

"That was a big out that we needed to get at that point," Yost said. "It was a ground ball right back to him. And his instincts were right, he was going to turnaround and fire to second. And again, I haven't talked to Salvy [catcher Salvador Perez], but Franklin said he heard Salvy say "home." So he stopped and turned and it was a mess from that point."

Morales' mental lapse was the second by a Kansas City pitcher in the game. In the fourth inning, with runners at second and third, Eric Hosmer fielded a grounder by Michael Conforto, but Ventura didn't cover the base, resulting in an RBI single for Conforto.

"My instincts were to watch the ball to see what Hoz was going to do," Ventura said through interpreter Christian Colon. "I just got caught watching the play."

The Royals lead the series now, two games to one, with two more to play at Citi Field. Although Syndergaard had a plan for one batter, the Royals have something bigger in mind.

"We have to forget about this," Escobar said. "The plan in here is to win."

Trick and Treat

Royals Capitalize on Murphy Error to Launch Another Comeback

"I don't think it's overstating it when you say the World Series is on the line right here. If the Royals pull this one out of the fire, they are in great shape. This could be the crossroads of the 2015 World Series."

That was Denny Matthews' call seconds before Eric Hosmer tapped a slow grounder that went under the glove of Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy in a Bill Buckner-esque moment and allowed Ben Zobrist to score the tying run in the eighth inning, as the Royals went on to score twice more and stun the Citi Field crowd in a 5–3 win. The victory gives Kansas City a three game to one lead in the series.

Any listener to a Royals radio broadcast knows how much Matthews preaches a doomsday sermon for a team that allows late-inning walks and errors. That proved to be true for the Mets in the eighth inning on Halloween night. The game seemed to be set up perfectly for New York to tie the series, as the Mets held a 3–2 lead with their set-up reliever, Tyler Clippard, and closer, Jeurys Familia, rested and ready to go.

After retiring Alcides Escobar on a comebacker to the mound for the first out of the eighth, however, Clippard then issued back-to-back walks to Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain. Mets manager Terry Collins wasted no time going to Familia in hopes of closing the door on the Royals. Instead, Hosmer tapped the second pitch he saw toward Murphy, who didn't get down on the ball and it rolled to shallow right field. The error, which was reminiscent of Buckner's infamous error for Boston against the Mets at old Shea Stadium in 1986, allowed Zobrist to tie the game and moved Cain to third.


Excerpted from Taking the Crown by Matt Fulks, Joe Funk. Copyright © 2015 Triumph Books LLC. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Foreword by Dayton Moore,
World Series,
Road to the Title,
American League Division Series,
American League Championship Series,

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