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How Kansas City Moved One Step Closer To Baseball Royalty

Kansas City fans have gone nuts after the team made the World Series for the first time in 29 years. Here's a look at how the Royals pulled it off.
Posted at 9:00 AM, Oct 16, 2014

It's been 29 years in the making and Wednesday night the Kansas City Royals moved one step closer to their crowning achievement. And the teams' fans are eating it up.

"The game's over. Oh my gosh! We're going to the World Series!"
"How about that? The drought is over!"

ROYALS FAN VIA KCTV: "The most amazing thing I've ever seen. I'm glad I didn't have to wait 29 years for this."
ROYALS FAN VIA KCTV: "I was here in '85 for the seventh game of the World Series, and it's right up there. Very exciting."

The Royals are headed to their third World Series and the team's first since 1985, and we'd venture to say their fan base is in a state of euphoria only three decades of waiting can inspire. Rightfully so. The team is on an incredible run — winning a Major League record eight straight games to start a single postseason.

The media has shared the fervor for the ultimate underdogs. With headlines like: "The dream is real," "Royals can do no wrong," "REASONS TO LOVE THE ROYALS," "Team of Destiny" and "The Kansas City Royals Are The Future of Baseball." And, no, none of those are hometown outlets — that's all national or non-local media.

The Royals have caught the sports world by storm without a huge slugger or a major-market payroll. Let's take a quick look at how they're pulling off this amazing run at the championship.

First: defense. The Royals wrapped up the season with the best Ultimate Zone Rating — an advanced defensive statistic that calculates the overall value of how well a team fields their positions.

A writer for Baseball Prospectus says Kansas City's outfield is particularly phenomenal, putting local stars Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain in the national spotlight. "We’re not just talking about a good outfield, or a great outfield. We’re talking about what one might decide to argue is the greatest defensive outfield of all time."

Next up: a lights out bullpen. In the series against Baltimore, their relief pitchers had an insanely low ERA of just 1.13. Only one other team in history has done better in the League Championship Series, and their back three relievers have analysts saying if you don't have a lead by the seventh, KC will win.

Lastly, the Royals have dominated not with the long ball, but by playing "small ball" — a seemingly lost art in baseball in recent years.

They've manufactured runs the hard way: with infield singles, sacrifice bunts and stolen bases.

And they finished dead last in home-runs in the regular season, though they definitely curbed that trend on their way to the World Series.

But some argue the hype is more than just a feel-good story. They say the Royals could change the game.

TIME argues this craftier style is the future of baseball now that the steroid era has passed and home-run kings aren't sending balls flying out of the park like they used to.

"Power is out. Pitching, speed and defense are in. ... This is where the game is heading. The Royals just do it best."

A Forbes contributor agrees. He says the Royals' "virtually unhittable bullpen" might even change the way teams are managed — putting less focus on high-priced starting pitchers and more on bulking up the roster with less expensive middle-relievers.

No matter how it's been done, it's certainly been exciting for Royals fans or anyone, for that matter, who enjoys a good underdog sports story. 

The Royals will now have to play the waiting game. They host the winner of the NLCS matchup between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Game One is October 21.