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KOUTELAS: Royals gave it their all, made a city proud

So close, yet so far away.

Yes, it’s a cliche saying, but it holds to be true for the Royals after losing in game 7 of the World Series. The Royals had great defense, a solid rotation and a downright dominant bullpen, but honestly none of that matters when Madison Bumgarner is on the mound for the San Francisco Giants.

The 25 year-old ace took the hill in game one of the World Series, and held the Royals scoreless until a Salvador Perez home run that ultimately meant nothing in a 7-2 loss. Bumgarner also started game 5, and threw the first complete game shutout for a pitcher in the World Series since Josh Beckett did it  for the Marlins in 2003.

Pitchers Tim Hudson and Jeremy Affeldt pitched the first three innings for San Francisco, and despite the Royals scratching across two runs off Hudson, they were staring in the face of a 3-2 deficit when Bumgarner exited the bullpen to start of the fourth.

Since he started games 1 and 5, Madison Bumgarner was not available to start game 7, but he would be available for multiple innings out of the bullpen. As he exited the gates of the bullpen, a mix of boo’s and sighs of lost hoped exuded from Royals fans, as they’d seen what the ace was capable. And despite being on short rest, Bumgarner was his regular self, putting up five scoreless innings, as well as a save. He was also crowned World Series MVP.

After coming so unexpectedly far, it is so easy as a fan to be disappointed, angry or depressed after such a devastating game 7 loss. The perfect ending for such a magical postseason had to end with Greg Holland striking out the last batter and meeting Salvador Perez between home plate and the mound for the dogpile. It would be Kansas City’s first World Series title in 29 years.

But baseball doesn’t work that way. It’s an incredibly cruel sport that teases you with moments, that fills you with happiness and hope and then tears it all away, leaving you numb and expressionless. The champions of the 2014 World Series should have been the small-ball, low payroll team from the Midwest that was in the playoffs for the first time in a generation. And that’s what the whole country was hoping for. But the Commissioner’s Trophy, went to the San Francisco Giants, their third championship in five years, sealing a dynasty.

This obviously was not a lost season for Kansas City, though. The Royals weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs, let alone the World Series. When they were in the midst of the American League Wild Card race, all we could have hoped for was a playoff birth.

The Royals were supposed to be shut down by Jon Lester and the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card game, and they completed one of the greatest comebacks in postseason history. The Royals were supposed to be blown away by superstar Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, yet they steamrolled past them in three games. Ned Yost was supposed to be outsmarted and outwitted by Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, yet the Royals swept them too.

Such an amazing and improbable season just has to be appreciated, and it’s a season Royals fans have to be proud of. The Royals are the first team to make a World Series while having a losing record as late as they did in 50 years. Eric Hosmer broke his hand. Mike Moustakas continued to be terrible. Ned Yost couldn’t figure out how to manage a bullpen. They got swept by the Houston Astros at home.

Hold your heads high, Royals fans. You have a city and team to be truly proud of.

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