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If the Indians had made the playoffs instead of the Royals...

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The Royals are all but assured of heading to the World Series, but it could have been the Indians instead.

Jason Miller

The Royals have taken a 2-0 lead in the ALCS, and given that no team has ever come back from down 2-0 in an LCS after dropping the first two games at home (as Baltimore has), Kansas City is a pretty sure thing to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1985.

As you may recall, heading into the final week of the season the Indians still had a chance at beating out the Royals for one of the two Wild Card spots. When the Tribe loaded the bases against KC with nobody out in the bottom of the 1st on Monday, September 22nd, they looked poised to take an early lead and keep gaining ground. Instead, Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes, and Mike Aviles were unable to push even a single run across, the Indians lost 2-0 and then lost the next night two, and that was that. If the Indians had managed to win out that final week, they'd have made the postseason. Alternatively, if the Tribe hadn't gone 2 for 25 with runners in scoring position in a late July series in Kansas City, they might have won those three games instead of losing by a combined total of five runs.

This is not to say the Tribe missed out on the postseason in especially dramatic fashion, because every team loses plenty of games it could have won. I'm just reminding you that not much needed to change for the Indians to be the team in the playoffs while the Royals went on their annual team fishing trip. Alas.

Since the start of the postseason, the Royals have been on an incredible ride, one which highlights the arbitrary nature of playoff baseball, in which the hard work of a 162 games can go up in smoke with one bad inning, and a well-timed hot streak can be the difference between footnote and immortal.

The Royals began their run by falling behind 7-3 in the Wild Card Game. They scored three in the 8th though, and one in the 9th, then fell behind again in extras, but managed to come back and win. While unlikely, it at least came in very Royals fashion, with singles, stolen bases, and bunts. Things have gotten weird since then.

They won Game 1 of their LDS series against the Angels on an 11th-inning from Mike Moustakas. He killed the Tribe this season, so you'll be forgiven if you didn't realize he was one of the worst hitters in baseball this season. They win Game 2 in extras too, this time on a home run by Eric Hosmer, the former top power-hitting prospect who managed all of 9 home runs this season. They completed the sweep while getting another homer from Moustakas and another from Hosmer. Moustakas homered again in Game 1 of the ALCS (which KC also won in extra innings), with Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon also going long, and they won Game 2 after Moustakas homered yet again.

The Royals hit only 95 home runs all season, the lowest total by any American League team since 1992. Suddenly though, they're Murderer's Row, with 8 home runs in their last fives games, matching their highest five-game output of the entire season. At no point all season did any Kansas City player homer in three consecutive games, the way Moustakas has. The postseason is a crapshoot, but I can scarcely recall a team doing something they were so bad at for 162 games so well in the playoffs.

Welcome to Bizarro World.

Back to the notion that it could have been the Indians and not KC who took made the postseason... What would it look like if the Tribe had been the team dusted with fairy dust this month, turning their biggest weakness into their greatest strength?

Imagine outfielders taking smart lines to deep fly balls, communicating with one another, only diving when they've actually got a chance to make the play, catching routine flys, hitting the cut-off man...

Imagine infielders positioning themselves in front of the ball, knowing which one of them would cover second, fielding one-hoppers cleanly, getting their footwork right, and making crisp throws that hit their teammate in the glove...

Imagine if this...

...had somehow instead been a double play (even though no one was on base when it happened). It's hard to picture, isn't it? Even as you try to imagine it, the possibility remains fleeting, lasting only a moment or two before logic and experience push it from your mind. Yet that's the kind of turnaround the Royals have made with their power hitting this month.

Whether they were playing possum all regular season, or they found the world's biggest horseshoe and crammed it... somewhere, or they went down to the crossroads and made a deal, they've been a different team. Bastards.