KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The 2014 Royals were the darlings of the postseason. But not many outside of the Royals clubhouse thought they could return to the playoffs in 2015. The Tigers, Indians and even the White Sox were picked by some to win the division.
"All the so-called smart guys who put out all the predictions had us third or fourth," said Ned Yost. "We just looked at that and laughed a little bit because we knew what kind of team we were."
Indeed, the Royals are the only 2014 American League playoff team that made it back to the postseason. They won 95 games, and ran away with the AL Central by 12 games. They own home-field advantage. They proved they weren't a one year wonder.
"We're not a fluke team," said Jarrod Dyson. "We like to show the world we're not a fluke. We're going to go out there and get it done."
When the Royals open the ALDS Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium, they will do so with the target on their back. Unlike last season when they outlasted the A's in that wild 12-inning Wild Card game and swept through Anaheim and Baltimore, there are expectations to at least return to the ALCS. While the Royals struggled in September, the Blue Jays came on strong and established themselves as the favorite to represent the AL in the World Series. However, the Royals won their last five and carry some momentum into October.
Opening Day starter Yordano Ventura, who was on his way to Omaha midseason when Jason Vargas was injured and lost for the season, has regained his flair and form in time for the playoffs. Ned Yost announced Ventura will start Game 1, followed by Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. Ventura has a 2.38 ERA over his last 11 starts.
In many ways, this Royals playoff team is much better going into the postseason compared to a year ago. When the postseason began a year ago, only five players on the 25-man roster had postseason experience. Almost every player on the Royals current roster has played in October. While last year's club was built around speed, defense and the best bullpen in baseball, the Royals still have speed and golden gloves, but they also hit for more power and the line-up is deeper.
And the other thing the Royals still have... that chip on their shoulder.
"They've been longing for this all year long. To get back to this position," said Yost. "So they're excited."