If you're a Royals fan, then you're intimately familiar with what happened this evening, familiar enough that this recap will only bring you additional pain. You are exempt from reading this.
But those readers who are not Royals fans are probably unaware of the proceedings of May 30th, a game which succinctly encapsulates the ego-crushing, character-building Royals Fan Experience of the last 15 years.
If you ever wanted to know what it's like to be a Royals fan, if just for one night, then read on.
The Royals ran into Cliff Lee, which didn't seem like a good way to end an 11-game losing streak. Giving up a home run to Grady Sizemore leading off the game didn't appear to be a good way either. But in the bottom of the second, the first two men reached base for John Buck, who belted a ball off the wall in right. A few more feet and it would have been a 3-1 lead, but Buck was stranded at third to end the inning. Still, the Royals had a 2-1 lead, and you could almost hear the announcer saying, "He's cut! The Indian is cut!"
In the fourth, Buck doubled again to plate Teahen, and with two outs DeJesus drove home Buck with a single. 4-1 Kansas City. In the top of the fifth, though, Sizemore went deep off Meche again, this time with a man aboard. Brett Tomko came out to pitch the sixth, and gave up a two-run homer to Casey Blake to give Cleveland the lead again.
And then the fun started. In the bottom of the sixth, the Royals once again got to Lee with a solid hitting approach. With one out, Joey Gathright took a fastball the other way for a single. Tony Pena took a fastball the other way...oh, who am I kidding, he swung right through an outside fastball for strike three. But DeJesus also poked a fastball to left field as Gathright moved to second. And then German took a fastball the other way, whizzing by Asdrubal Cabrera into right field as Gathright raced home with the tying run.
...except DeJesus took too wide a turn around second, and Franklin Gutierrez threw behind him. Peralta applied the tag a second before Gathright touched home plate.
At that moment, the odds that the Royals would lose were about 95%. The odds that they would lose by the margin of one run were probably 70%. If it were only that painful.
The Indians would not get another runner to second base in the game; they would not need to. In the bottom of the 7th, Guillen doubled off the strangely-hittable Rafael Betancourt with one out. After Olivo flied to left, Rafael Perez came into face Teahen. Topspin laced a ball into the right-centerfield gap, prompting Ryan Lefebvre to exclaim, "there it is!"
He was presumably referring to the tying run, but he might have been trying to point out the ball for the benefit of Gutierrez, who entered the TV screen at the last moment and made a shoestring catch.
The Royals had one last opportunity in the ninth inning, when the Indians graciously inserted Joe Borowski into the game. With one out, Esteban German belted a ball that kept carrying deep to left - and it hit off the wall, about 2 feet from the top of the fence. A double. Alex Gordon then flew out harmlessly to left. This brought up Jose Guillen with two outs, the tying run at second, and his reputation at the plate. Here was Guillen's chance to connect actions to words, to provide the Royals with leadership on the field as well as in the locker room.
The first pitch was a fastball outside. The second pitch was a fastball that, according to MLB's Gameday, was 86.7 mph and right down Broadway. Guillen crushed it to left-center - he walked towards first for a moment as if it were a no-doubt walk-off homer.
The ball came down in deepest left-centerfield, about a foot from the fence - and into the outstretched glove of Sizemore, who face-planted into the wall so hard that he fell to the ground afterwards. The Indians' trainer had to race onto the field to make sure he was alright. Sizemore was fine; the game was over.
Here's the thing: if you want to know what it's like to be a Royals fan, it's not enough to understand that the Royals should have won or at least tied this game half a dozen times, and that they were thwarted by little league baserunning or tremendous defensive plays or balls which missed carrying out by a few feet.
What you have to understand is this: watching this game as a Royals fan, AT NO POINT after Blake's home run did I feel that we had any chance to win. The last four innings were like a car wreck in slow motion, where you know things are going to turn out badly, but you don't know what the gruesome details are yet.
When German singled Gathright home, as soon as I saw Gutierrez make a quick throw to second base, I thought "watch this - he's going to pick DeJesus off." Even after DeJesus was called out, as the Royals' feed went to commercial Lefebvre made it a point to say that the run counted, and the on-screen scoreboard showed a 5-5 tie. Even so, I was utterly sure that after the commercial break we would learn that the run did not count, not because I thought that Gathright didn't touch home plate in time - I hadn't seen a replay - but simply because this is what happens to the Royals. The first image we saw coming out of commercial was the back of Hillman's jersey as he was arguing with the home plate umpire. That's all I needed to see.
When Teahen lined the ball in the gap, even as Lefebvre yelled in anticipation of the game-tying hit, I knew that the ball was hanging up long enough for Gutierrez (one of the finest rightfielders in the game defensively) to have a shot. When the leftfielder kept racing to the wall on German's drive in the ninth, I had no doubt that it would stay in the park. And even for that half-second when Guillen stood at home plate admiring his walk-off homer, I knew that no ball hit to the deepest part of Kauffman Stadium is a no-doubter.
If you're a Royals fan who ignored my warning and have read this far, you're no doubt nodding your head. If you're not a Royals fan, well, now you know what we live with. It's not enough that we lose, night after night after night. It's that defeat stalks us in our homes, it chases us into dark alleys and up fire escapes and down manholes like Freddy Krueger. It's that we live in this nightmare that we can't wake up from, and that long before Defeat hunts us down and eviscerates us, we suffer all the more from knowing that no matter how hard we try, no matter how long we run, eventually Defeat will catch up to us, that we will meet our demise, and it will be painful and bloody.
Defeat toyed with us longer than usual tonight, but we know his game well, well enough to know that we never really had a chance to escape this time. If you had looked out your apartment window and seen us high-tailing it down the street with a hideous clawed beast in pursuit, you might have thought we had a chance to make it to safety. Try running in our shoes for one night, and see how you feel.