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K.C. is royal darling of MLB

After nearly three decades of being absent in baseball’s biggest series, the Kansas City Royals are heading back.

Because of superb pitching and near-flawless defense, the Royals have become this fall’s feel-good team and are four wins away from winning their first World Series since George Brett hoisted the trophy after Kansas City defeated St. Louis in seven games in 1985.

They’ve made it look easy against three of baseball’s top teams this month, starting with the extra-inning affair against Oakland. They overcame a four-run deficit late in the game, sent it to extras and walked off winning the wild-card play-in game.

Los Angeles, which possessed the best record in baseball, didn’t stand a chance. Kansas City swept the divisional series, which included two extra-inning games, by coming up with clutch home runs, executing on the base paths and handing the ball over to the bullpen.

Like the Angels, the Orioles couldn’t create their own magic as the Royals just completed a four-game sweep on Wednesday, improving their record to 8-0 in the postseason. Kansas City, which became the first team in history to start the playoffs with eight-straight wins, used the same formula that helped them against the A’s and Angels.

Kansas City’s becoming the darlings of the country and no matter who wins the NLDS between the Cardinals and Giants, it feels like than anyone living outside California, Nevada and St. Louis will be rooting on the Royals next week in the World Series.

Possessing one of the smallest payrolls, the Royals are doing what the Rays and A’s couldn’t in the postseason. For many years, money has been the excuse why these two teams couldn’t get past the hump. They have to result to “moneyball” strategy with unproven rookies and washed-up veterans on the brink of retirement.

While the magic from the A’s especially was incredible in how they were able to reel off win after win during the regular season in the last few years, they haven’t been able to get past the divisional round, just like the teams from the early 2000s. The Tigers shut them down in back-to-back postseasons before the Royals stole seven bases and battled back to stun the A’s in the play-in game.

It’s remarkable what they have been able to do. There hasn’t been a dominating team like the Royals in the postseason since the Yankees and Braves more than a decade ago.

But will it last?

Kansas City is using the same philosophy as its American League counterparts by using small ball, great pitching and stellar defense to win games. And they’ve proven every game that once the bullpen is involved, the game is over. If you can’t score off the starter, consider the game a loss. It’s over.

Whether it’s the Giants or Cardinals, the Royals will be looking in the mirror next week.

Both National League clubs don’t rely on the long ball, although the Cardinals have gone on a frenzy in the postseason while the Giants have hit just two. Small ball and good pitching have been the storyline in the NLCS where errors and mental lapses have determined the outcome in three of the four games going into Thursday night’s Game 5.

The three-week adrenaline rush of baseball in October is what continues to make the sport America’s favorite pastime. From walk-offs to pitching duels to Cinderella-like journeys, baseball doesn’t get any better than October.

Next week’s World Series will be one to remember, even for the non-baseball fan.

Thomas Ranson can be contacted at lvnsports@yahoo.com.