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The Royals are going back to the World Series

It's a game of inches, they say. Not sure if you've heard that, but it's a game of inches.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

It isn't supposed to work like this. The Royals had their shot, just last year. They were just here. Teams aren't supposed to come back the next season, do even better, and slice through several tough teams to get to the World Series. Again.

Teams aren't supposed to face insurmountable odds in two straight postseasons and come up with miracle comebacks. In the Wild Card Game last year, the Royals were down to about a 3 percent chance of winning after Mike Moustakas lined out to end the seventh. In the ALDS this year, the Royals were down to less than a 2 percent chance of winning the must-win Game 4. According to my English major math skills, that means less than a .006 percent chance of winning back-to-back pennants.

The Royals like to eat math. They like to do it in front of you, looking you in the eye the entire time. Know this about them.

The Royals are going to the World Series again. Because of some warlock-scented detritus that I can't even begin to describe, but they're going.

Here's how they went last year:

I don't know if the A's win that game if Josh Donaldson spears it. But considering it was Donaldson throwing and Salvador Perez running, it's a fair bet. It would at least have given the A's another out, possibly another inning, possibly the game. The Royals were inches away from losing. The Royals used those inches to win.

Let's talk about these inches. They come up a lot in these Royals wins. You know, they say that baseball is a game of inch--

Here are the inches that have helped the Royals over the last 12 months:

The home run that wasn't

It almost certainly wasn't a home run.

It was an elimination game for the team that needed that to be called a double. It ended up being a one-run loss. This isn't dirt to get off the proverbial shoulder. This is a five-month purgatory between baseball games, followed by a six-month purgatory to see if they get back, followed by a five-month purgatory between baseball games because the odds are against them and every other team next year.

The Blue Jays have been in purgatory for decades. They saw the bright light of the open door into heaven, and they scrambled toward it, and now it's closed indefinitely. Don't tell them to shake that blown call off. They lost by a run. THAT WAS THE RUN.

Of course, with a runner on second and David Price in the stretch, maybe Salvador Perez isn't called out on strikes. Maybe he singles to right on a pitch out of the strike zone and starts a six-run rally. You know, they say that baseball is a game of in--

The strike that wasn't

It wasn't a strike. Ben Revere didn't see a strike on that 2-1 pitch. He was looking for a certain location, and he didn't get it, but he was still penalized. Take it from the lasers that Brooks Baseball aggregates:

That's from the catcher's perspective, and you're looking at No. 4, there. It was about two baseballs outside. It looked bad from the off-center camera, and it probably looked worse with a perfect angle from behind the plate. It wasn't a strike.

Here's the thing that kills me: Normally in a ninth-inning situation, I'd fall back on the logic that Revere was statistically unlikely to get a hit. Them's the odds. Except Revere didn't need a hit. He needed to make contact, which he's exceptionally skilled at. He needed a grounder that way or a fly ball this way. He needed a pitch to drive, which he might have gotten in that 3-1 count.

Or maybe Wade Davis would have struck him out anyway.

Or maybe Revere would have lined a foul off Josh Donaldson in the on-deck circle, screwing the Blue Jays' chances for next year, then struck out.

Or maybe he would have hit a homer over Kauffman and we all would have ascended.

We would have liked to have seen, though. We would have liked to have seen what happened if the call were correct. You can't assume that the Blue Jays were going to win the World Series if the pitcher were called correctly. But you can't not extrapolate a best-case scenario, either. It's the fan's right.

What would have happened? What would have happened? You know, they say that baseball is a game o--

The Royals hitting dingers

You want to talk about inches? If David Price could pause baseball and move his pitches from the first and second inning by a sixth of an inch, the Royals don't hit a pair of dingers. They were meatballs, don't get me wrong. But meatballs get fouled back.

These ones didn't. The Royals hit the snot out of those balls. You know, they say that baseball is a ga--

Lorenzo Cain

This run home, man.

The game-of-inches gag works for every pitch, you know. It's the reason for the season, the birth of the cliché. If Eric Hosmer doesn't get that pitch -- if he gets a cement mixer of a slider, floating up there like a knuckleball, and pops it up -- maybe everything's different. He got that pitch and he drove it there, allowing that guy to run like that.

And what a run. What a send from the third base coach.

What a clean route around the bag, from just about the fastest runner in the game. What a jump off the crack of the bat. You know, they say that baseball is a g--

Lorenzo Cain on the Royals in the first place

He was traded with Alcides Escobar, the ALCS MVP, to the Royals for Zack Greinke, who might win the Cy Young for another team this year. And the Royals don't care. Don't caaaaaaaare. They're dancing in their underwear, giddy that they have Cain in the first place. Escobar had a great series, sure, but Cain is quietly one of the best players in baseball. Defense and speed and raw offense. The raw offense wasn't so raw when Cain laid off two nasty death sliders thrown exactly where Anthony Osuna wanted them to be thrown, and he worked the walk that sent the Royals to the World Series.

Then he scored the run that sent the Royals to the World Series on a ball that ... maybe four percent of baseball players would have scored on? Three percent? Help me out, here, because I'm just pulling numbers out of my keister. And that's no way to live.

The odds are low that it was Cain on-base at that exact time, doing Cain things. We can agree on that.

It's a game of inches that Dayton Moore accepts the Cain/Escobar offer in the first place. What were the other offers? Line them up and rank them. There might have been a metaphorical Dallas McPherson/Brandon Wood trade that the Internet would have flipped for. Moore accepted the one that led to this, this right here, when most veterans-for-prospect trades end with ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and appeals to the randomness of prospects and the vagaries of the baseball gods.

Oh, and Moore also traded his best young position player prospect for the starter that helped him to the pennant last year and the reliever that helped him to the pennant in both years. Did the Rays offer (_ _ other _ _) instead of Davis? Were they trying to convince the Royals to take (_ _ prospect _ _) instead of Davis, or were the Rays pushing Davis so that the Royals wouldn't take that prospect? It's all so fascinating. You know, they say that baseball is a--


You know, they say that baseball is a horrible thing, a goblin that will steal your soul. They say it's a brilliant thing, a treasure chest that swallows you and lets you swim in a lake of treasure forever. Postseason games are all raindrops on a mountain, each racing to the summit, nicking off angles and facets unpredictably, with the winner getting there because it accidentally took the best path to the bottom. It means nothing.

Except it means that that one raindrop got there first. That counts. You know they say that baseball is an unfair game of inches. Except when it's entirely fair, when the team that was beat over the head with a yardstick for decades gets to enjoy it.

The Royals won the pennant. They won it by inches. As teams do.