KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At 11:10 a.m. Monday, a television outside the Royals’ clubhouse had lineups posted on it. It said that Jeremy Guthrie was starting, Nori Aoki was hitting second and Billy Butler was the designated hitter.
On the other side, it listed Pablo Sandoval as the third baseman, Hunter Pence as the right fielder and the San Francisco Giants as the opponent. The television was stuck in playoff mode.
So were the Royals.
It sure seems that way after Kansas City’s 10-1 thrashing Monday of the White Sox on Opening Day. The raucous Kauffman Stadium crowd and the dazzling Yordano Ventura, the shutdown bullpen and the speedy offense, the stunning outfield and the flashy infield, the dinks and the dunks, the winning — it all carried over from October.
“We talked about it early in spring training, with the experience that these guys gained last year, it’s going to be real interesting to see if they can take it into the regular season,” Yost said. “All spring and even to this point, it’s only one game, but they’ve done a great job with that.”
Before the game, the Royals received their American League championship rings and watched as their flag was raised beyond left field. Then, they were brought back to the feeling of those games and the emotions that came with them.
“Just reminded of the best moment of last year, just trying to get there again this year,” Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar said. “We want that moment again.”
To get that moment again, the Royals will try to ride the wave of momentum from last year’s postseason — and hope for some of the same fortune.
Monday afternoon, it came by way of Lorenzo Cain’s arching base hit down the right-field line, by way of Alex Gordon’s sneaky grounder that slipped through the middle infield for a two-run single and by way of Eric Hosmer’s RBI single that barely escaped through the right side of the infield.
But the explanation was simple — it’s just Royals baseball.
The defense carried over from 2014. Escobar’s across-the-body snare in the fifth inning proved that, as did Gordon’s running catch in the first and the three slick double plays turned by the infield.
“It felt like a playoff game,” Cain said. “Everyone played a part, stepped up and swung the bats well today. That’s what we’re trying to do on the offensive side of the ball. We know we can play defense.”
The aggressive baserunning was back. Cain stole his first base of the season, and so did Alex Rios. They rushed infield throws and pressured cutoff men.
“It felt like the playoffs, but all games count,” catcher Salvador Perez said. “Every game counts the same.”
Monday’s win was just game one of 162 this season, just one victory in a season that will assuredly be sprinkled with defeats. It was a new day for Kansas City, even if they were constantly bombarded with memories of one’s past.
“Skip told us yesterday, once that ring ceremony is over, once that flag is raised, last year’s over,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “Now it’s a brand new season. We gotta go out and find a way to get back to where we were last year.”
Maybe they’re still stuck there. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
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