Baseball. Good.

Another exciting Royals game last night to close out their series with the Angels.

After another long bedtime battle with Faye, I got in front of the TV in time last night to see Salvador Perez strike out on some inconsistent, bad calls by the home plate umpire. Salvy argued and then got tossed from the game with the score tied 2-2.

Wade Davis gave up a home run to Cole Calhoun in the bottom of the eighth, allowing the Angels to move ahead 3-2, and it was looking like Thursday night again.

But in the bottom of the ninth, the comeback kid Royals did it again. Eric Hosmer walked. Mike Moustakas was intentionally walked and Jerrod Dyson came in to pinch run for him at first. Drew Butera, who came in for Salvy, walked to load the bases. ... Then Alex Rios hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Hosmer and tie the score again at 3-3.

Next up, Paulo Orlando comes up with a chance to win it. He hits a deep fly ball to right center field ... and it looks like it's going to drop ... But ...

In the end, it didn't matter ...

After the game, I caught this piece on Sportscenter about Joe Maddon ... Go Cubs, go!


A day at the fair

So my office mates and I headed to the Iowa State Fair yesterday to promote our university. We also found some time to enjoy all the fair has to offer. This was our second trip to the Iowa Fair, having gone for the first time last year -- and we got a whole lot of sun this year, compared to last year's rainy day. 

Once we were settled in, our group mostly broke away from each other for some exploration on our own. On the lookout for something tasty to eat yesterday morning, I went for a walking taco -- a fair classic -- in a Doritos bag. And it was awesome.

I spent the morning mostly just walking the fair, checking out the sights and snapping photos of interesting scenes.

The classic cars ... 

Two goats and a turtle ...

Here, cowboys -- and cowgirls -- were guiding horses through an obstacle course of orange cones and firing pistols at balloons attached to each of the cones ...  

Though I'm not much for carnival rides any more, these areas always are a fascinating source of nostalgia and color to me ... 

A lot of corn on display ...

And a cattle show ...

I returned to our booth and worked it for a couple hours over the lunch hour before heading out on the grounds again for the afternoon.

I took advantage of a free 15-minute full-body massage in a high-tech, souped-up massage chair.

I grabbed a pork chop on a stick for my afternoon snack and supplemented it with a strawberry smoothie and later a strawberry limeade. The combination of the fruit and cold beverage were wonderfully refreshing during the hot afternoon.

I also made sure to hit the cultural center again this year -- one of my favorite destinations last year -- and spent more time taking in the photography exhibit than anything else.

On my way back to reunite with our group, I quickly walked through the livestock barns, taking in the sheep, cattle, pigs and chicken. I saw a pig about the size of a sofa; his name was Big Mac.

But before doing anything else at the fair yesterday, I saw Jeb Bush, who happened to be at the Des Moines Register's Soapbox. Our group was walking through the fairgrounds to the exhibition hall when my colleague Crystal spotted Jeb waiting in the wings of a stage area and veered off for a closer look. A couple of us followed to join the crowd and waited about 10 more minutes as the  crowd swelled behind us and Jeb was introduced by a Register editor. 

Admittedly, we didn't stick around for long. Jeb's remarks were well rehearsed and not all that inspiring. But it was fun to be part of the spectacle. ... After listening to him for a few minutes, Crystal and I rejoined our crew at the exhibition hall. I headed back onto the grounds a few minutes after that and, by that time, Jeb was already gone from the stage and the crowd was dispersing. 

Interestingly, I spotted this New York Times story this morning about Jeb's appearance at the fair yesterday, which captures my, albeit shortened, experience well.


Another day, another Royals game

Phoebe and I went to the Royals game last night. A daddy-daughter date. Finally making up for our School Day at the K rainout in May.

It started off a little rough, though. I took off from work early to come home, change into my Royals gear and pick up Phoebe. But she was having a change of heart about going to the game -- because Ratatouille was showing on Disney Channel last night and suddenly that was more enticing. Some tears were shed, but Kates and I talked it through with her, and eventually she came back around to going to the Royals game.

We were all smiles the rest of the way. Once we were inside the stadium, we found some food -- Phoebe went for the chicken nuggets, I went for the Chicago-style hot dog -- and took a seat on the concrete under one of the Outfield Experience's sheltered areas.

Then, Phoebe took a ride on the carousel, and we took in the fountains. We also visited the
souvenir shop and Phoebe talked me into buying a foam finger, with the words #1 Royals fan emblazoned on it, for her. ... She stood in front of her seat, dancing and waving that foam finger during every commercial break, desperately trying to get on the fan cam. I thought surely one of the camera guys would spot her and put her on, but it never happened. 

Phoebe and I had a blast spending time together, and it was an exciting game -- until a terribly disappointing ending.

The Royals took a lead in the first, as they've done so often lately. Alcides Escobar, Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain delivered three straight singles to start the bottom of the first with Cain's hit 
scoring Escobar. But that's all they would get.

Jeremy Guthrie pitched well, going six innings and not giving up  a hit until there were two outs in the fourth -- a double to David Murphy, who eventually scored to tie the game, 1-1.

The Royals scored two in the sixth and two more in the seventh. Everything was looking rosy for the Royals as they took a 5–1 lead into the eighth.

Wade Davis took the mound, and anyone who's watched the Royals regularly during the last two seasons is thinking, game over. Davis has been sidelined with back trouble in recent days and received a loud ovation from the crowd when he entered the game. But he quickly got into trouble via a single by Kole Calhoun and a double by Mike Trout -- his first hit of the game. Both scored and the Royals' lead suddenly was just 5–3.

Greg Holland came on for the save in the ninth, and anyone who's watched the Royals regularly during the last two seasons is thinking, game over. But Holland also got into trouble. ... He allowed the first six batters to reach and all of a sudden the Royals were trailing, 7-5. Gah!

As my friend Austin noted in a Facebook post, "This game (was) about as disappointing as 1986-2013."

The Royals made it exciting in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Eric Hosmer hit a bomb that landed way beyond the center field wall and cut the Angels lead to 7-6. It might have been the longest homer I've seen at Kauffman Stadium.

Then Kendrys Morales singled and Mike Moustakas walked. ... But that was it. Alex Rios flied out to end the game.

Listening to the postgame radio broadcast in the stadium afterward, the analysts said it was the first time the Royals blew a four-run lead after the eighth inning since 2008.

And there was this via Sports Illustrated today ...
After winning 111 consecutive games in which they held the lead after seven innings, they've blown two straight.
Prior to Wednesday night, when Kansas City failed to hold a 4–2 eighth-inning lead over the Tigers, the last time it had faltered in such fashion was May 5, 2014 against the Padres. The Royals' 111-game streak of converting such leads is the third-longest in major league history according to the Elias Sports Bureau, trailing only the 1906–07 Cubs (116 games) and the '98–99 Yankees (115 games). Note that those four teams each won the pennant in those respective seasons, as Kansas City did last year; only they and the '06 Cubs failed to win the World Series.
In other baseball fun this week ... 

On Monday night, albeit from home, Phoebe and I had a good time watching Johnny Cueto throw a complete-game shutout in his Royals home debut. And yes, the photos of the postgame celebration are awesome. ... But, pssst, national media, Salvador Perez douses one of his teammates after every Royals win. You report it like Johnny Cueto getting soaked was a one-time deal. Don't you have people that watch every game? Why can't you get on board with the Royals? Pay attention.

On Tuesday, all 15 home teams won for the first time in Major League Baseball's history. Prior to that, the best day for home teams was May 23, 1914, when 12 teams won. That's pretty cool.
The 15 host teams -- the Blue Jays, Rays, Marlins, Mets, Indians, Cubs, Royals, White Sox, Twins, Cardinals, D-backs, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers and Giants -- outscored their visitors by an 80-32 margin, including four shutouts. Seven of the wins came after the home team trailed at some point in the game, and 11 of the 15 home clubs scored at least four runs in their victories.

On Wednesday, Anthony Rizzo. Wow.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still scary hot.

Oh, and the San Francisco Giants recreated the opening credits of Full House.


Sunday at the ballpark

Today was a lucky day because I got to go to a Royals game.

My friend John texted me Friday afternoon to say he had a couple tickets to this afternoon's game and wondered if I wanted to go with him. Of course I wanted to go with him. But I had to check with the Mrs. first. She said yes. I said yes.

So, after another long and stormy night of having Faye wrestling with Kates and I for room in our bed, I traveled to Kansas City this morning. I picked up John at his place and we headed for the stadium.

I drove through a heavy thunderstorm about halfway between The 'Ville and Kansas City, and the storm found me again as we arrived at the stadium. ... Go figure. Every time I've gone to Kauffman Stadium this summer, rain has followed. And on a related note, I heard this weather stat the other day: During the month of July we received about 17 inches of rain. Our average annual rainfall is around 34 inches. So much for that drought so many people were forecasting for our region this summer.

John and I dodged the rain by going through the Royals Hall of Fame, and the rain had ceased by the time we returned outside. We made a pit stop for some food - I went with a chilli cheese dog with a Mountain Dew today - and headed to our seats in the lower level on the first base side.

Today was Star Wars Day at The K. But it sounded better to me than it looked. I expected, and hoped for, a lot of good people watching. People dressed as the array of Star Wars characters. Lots of storm trooper and Darth Vadar costumes. But it wasn't that way at all, and the most common sight was girls with their hair in buns a la Princess Leia. Slugerrr also was dressed as a Jedi and he participated in a couple skits with Darth Vadar, Darth Maul, and some storm troopers on the field between innings. The Crown Vision flashed Star Wars trivia between innings, too. 

And John took a picture of this guy boarding a minivan, not the Millennium Falcon, in the parking lot after the game.

A photo posted by photogwingsfan (@photogwingsfan) on

As for the game, I got to see another good one. Facing the White Sox, the Royals jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom the first inning on a  and a Kendrys Morales home run.

Starting pitcher Danny Duffy seemed to be rolling, getting 1-2-3 innings in the first and second. But he lost his control in the top of the third and the White Sox squared off on him to tie it up. Ned Yost didn't waste any time pulling Duffy and brought in Kris Medlen, who held the Sox hitless for the next 3 2/3 innings.

The Royals went ahead, 4-3, in the fifth inning, but the White Sox tied it again in the eighth. The White Sox tied it just after Mike Moustakas made a diving stop on a Jose Abreu ground ball and threw him out while keeping Adam Eaton at third base. Heck, I hadn't realized Moustakas came into the game; Ben Zobrist had been manning third up to that inning.   

The Royals put it away in the bottom of the eighth inning, though. After Alex Rios got on and advanced to third base, Omar Infante came to the plate and hit a slow roller on the first base side. Jose Abreu fired the ball to home plate, but Rios slid under the tag. Then  Ryan Madson shut down the White Sox in the ninth to give the Royals the 5-4 win and a series sweep.

Here's the game winner ...

And, for the cherry on top, we got to see Salvy Perez dump the ice bucket on Madson.

Here's the view of Salvy's ice dump from where I was standing  ... 

Having watched the Royals win another thriller in front of a blue-clad capacity crowd at Kauffman Stadium -- a long way from the losing ways of just a few years ago -- I'm again left wondering, What world is this?! The Royals are 66-44 with a winning percentage of .604. They are 11 1/2 games ahead of the Twins -- the exact same margin of the five other division leaders combined -- and they are the only AL Central team with a winning record. ... What world is this?!

It also felt really good to attend a game with a friend who enjoys baseball as much as I do and focus on the action on the field. It's been awhile since I've had that privilege.

Meanwhile, after last weekend's escapades and extending their winning streak to eight games today, the Blue Jays still scare the heck out of me when it comes to the Royals and the postseason.

(Updated 08.10.2015) One team I'm not scared of and would love to see the Royals face in, oh, the World Series: the Chicago Cubs, who swept the Giants over the weekend. Sadly, distance and change -- ownership, the roster, Wrigley Field, no more WGN -- has softened my affection for them in recent years, but I still yearn from afar to see them in the postseason and especially a World Series.
Yes, the Cubs made it look relatively easy against the defending World Series champions for their first four-game sweep of the Giants since 1977 — a gigantic step indeed. Not since the end of 2008 — their last playoff season — have the Cubs been 14 games over .500. ...

For the first time since the Ricketts family bought the team in 2009, the Cubs are for real. ~David Haugh, Chicago Tribune


This week in baseball

I’m watching today’s Royals game and reading up on all the news that fit to print. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon.

The Royals need to win today against these pesky Blue Jays – who are riding a high after their week in trading. Of course, the Royals scored in the first inning again today. … So that doesn’t bode well.

Watching the Royals lose the last couple nights – after taking early leads – has been brutal. Last night, the loss came on an 11th inning walkoff by Blue Jays big man Josh Donaldson. After a controversial balk called on Franklin Morales. On Johnny Cueto’s debut. And after Kendrys Morales’ incredible slide to beat a tag at home. … 


But what a week it was for trades.

Will Leitch offers a good take on all 30 teams here.
It feels like we say this every year, but this year we really mean it: This was the craziest Trade Deadline ever. We had massive trades, massive non-trades, buyers, sellers, challenge trades, salary dumps, tweetstorms and, in an interesting new touch, one player crying out on the field when he thought he had been traded, even though he had not been traded.
Some teams went big; some teams started over; some teams just watched everyone else. But every team (except one) is a little bit different today than they were a month ago. 
Here’s what Leitch writes about the Royals …
Saddle up, boys. That we have reached a point where the biggest buyers at the Trade Deadline are the Royals sure feels like progress to me. But it makes total sense: The Royals' window is probably only for the next year or two, and maybe even just this one. So floor it now. Every team in baseball would have loved to trade for Cueto or Zobrist. The Royals have them both, adding them to a team that has the best record in the AL. This is going to be fun.
It’s going to be fun or terribly heartbreaking. The Blue Jays and Astros scare me right now. And then there’s the poor Tigers who stood in the Royals’ way to a division crown the last two seasons. Gone from the Tigers are David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria. ...
This is going to be ugly. We are sorry for what's coming over the next half decade, Detroit fans. You deserved that World Series win that never came. Just writing this paragraph is making me sad, so I need to stop.
What a week for Wilmer Flores and the New York Mets. ... Here's a good read about how the whole thing broke Twitter, which I happened to be following Wednesday night. Although, I think they’ll be just fine with Cespedes.

You go, Wilmer..

(Updated 4:02 p.m.)

The Royals win! It was another breath-taking, nail-biting game that came down to Greg Holland staring down Josh Donaldson with the tying run on third base and the go-ahead run on first with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. But the Royals won!

It snapped only a three-game losing streak, but those losses seemed like a week’s worth.

Just as nice, new guy Ben Zobrist went 3-for4 with two home runs and a double.