Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Ding dong, the game is over.
The decade ended a few months ago, but I never even got a chance to look back on all the wonderful walk-off home run from the last ten years. The walk-off home run is perhaps the most exciting play in baseball, the moment we all dream of as kids.
Now that we have some more time to reflect, let’s look back on all the Royals walk-off home runs from the last decade.
Alex Gordon wasn’t ALEX GORDON at this point, in fact this was his first week back in the big leagues after being demoted to Omaha for almost three months to learn how to play left field. He was hitting just .182 going into this game, so he seemed like an unlikely hero. The Orioles were just one strike away from winning this game 5-4, but Rick Ankiel drew a walk on a 3-2 count, Wilson Betemit dribbled a single through the hole, and Gordo finished it off.
On another note, there have been just nine home runs hit by a Royals player to lead off a game - six of them are by Alex Gordon. The others were by Alcides Escobar (twice) and Whit Merrifield (once).
Kila was a fan favorite on this board, and after mixed results in an extended look in 2010, he was named the starter to begin 2011. On the second game of the season, he won the game with a walk off dong. But that would be the high point, and just a month later he would be demoted in favor of hot prospect Eric Hosmer.
Two days later, the Royals won it again on a walk-off home run, this time from catcher Matt Treanor. One of the few Major Leaguers less famous than his wife - three-time Olympic gold medalist volleyball player Misty May-Treanor - Matt had been acquired by the Royals just a week prior to this game. He didn’t even start this contest, entering the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement after Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran for Brayan Pena. Angels closer Fernando Rodney (HE HAS BEEN AROUND FOREVER) blew a two-run ninth inning lead, and in the bottom of the 13th, Treanor won it with a three-run dong.
This was the first game I ever took my son too. It was an afternoon affair and a getaway game for the Angels, so the game moved along very quick, along me to stay with a 3-year old the entire contest. Players were eager to swing, so it became a pitching duel between Felipe Paulino and Tyler Chatwood, with goose eggs going into the bottom of the ninth. Jeff Francoeur hit a one out single, and Billy Butler followed it up with a line drive home run that was initially called a double after hitting a wall behind the outfield padding and bouncing onto the field, but replays later showed it was a home run.
In 2012, the Royals and Mariners were in a contest for who could be the more irrelevant team. But what we didn’t know is that the Royals already had six players in the lineup that would one day start on a pennant-winning club, while the Mariners’ #3 hitter that day - Casper Wells - would be out of the big leagues by 2014. Anyway, Bruce Chen started this game and wasn’t great, Jeff Francoeur went 0-for-4, and Aaron Crow blew a lead, which kinda sums up 2012. Luckily, Billy Butler bailed them both out in the ninth.
Salvy had played barely 100 games in the big leagues at this point, but was a career .319 hitter up to that point, and had only struck out in an amazing 9.2 percent of his plate appearances. The game was actually a terrific pitcher’s duel between Jeremy Guthrie and Zack Greinke of the Angels. Greinke took a 2-0 lead into the ninth, but was pulled after giving up a one-out single to Alex Gordon. Frieri promptly gave up a game-tying two-run home run on the first pitch to Billy Butler, then Salvy won it with a walk off. AT least Greinke was accustomed to having that kind of support from his teammates at Kauffman Stadium.
The Mariners blew an early 5-0 lead, but the Royals led a one-run ninth inning lead slip away when Seattle pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez homered off closer Greg Holland. Moustakas was having a really poor season and hadn’t even started this game, but he came on in the sixth as a pinch-hitter, and when he came up again in the 13th, he was able to end it. The win was their ninth in twelve tries and brought the Royals to within 4.5 games of a Wild Card spot.
The Royals were still hanging around at the edge of the Wild Card race with a week to go. James Shields and Rangers starter Alexi Ogando had tossed goose eggs, and it was a scoreless tie going into extra innings. Eric Hosmer led off the tenth with a double, and Billy Butler was intentionally walked. An infield single by Salvador Perez loaded the bases, but then-Rangers reliever Joakim Soria was able to retire the next two hitters. Justin Maxwell ended it with a dramatic walk-off grand slam, which to that point, was probably the greatest moment in over 20 years of Royals baseball.
Tomorrow I’ll look at part two, all the walk-off home runs from 2014-2019.
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