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The Royals are a win away, and it's not just because of singles

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The Royals do a lot of specific things well, and it's even more obvious when the Mets don't do the same thing.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It's bullshit that the Royals are even here, you know. I'm assuming you're an adult, and if you're not, I can't apologize enough. But where I usually use a word like "nonsense" to describe what the Royals did to the Astros, it feels unethical to mince words here. The Royals were down four runs in the eighth inning of an elimination game -- four! -- and they went single, single, single, single, single, error, strikeout, walk, ground out, and they woke up a win away from winning the World Series.

Some of those singles, as you can imagine, were bullshit. That's not to impugn the Royals; that's to impugn singles. Singles, by definition, are often bullshit. Singles are included in the box that baseball comes in. Your dad opened the box on a December morning and said, "What the sam hill are these?" He scratched his head, thought about dumping them, but wedged them into a spot where he thought they belonged. They kind of fit. Kind of.

Singles are fickle, singles are awful, singles are the best. And here the Royals are, a win away from a parade, because of their mastery of singles. With one more win, this will be the explanation you will hear until the end of time. They kept the line moving. Single here, single there, single single single. They were contact masters. They were single ninjas.

They were two innings away from elimination in the first place because they were single ninjas.

It's Schrödinger's single! Half of the time, their reliance on singles kills them against good teams. The other of the time, their reliance on singles is what makes them so unstoppable and beautiful. That is the story of the 2015 Royals.

Except that's an oversimplification. A gross oversimplification. Game 4 of the 2015 World Series proved that, perfectly, highlighting what's so different about this team. Yes, they make contact. Yes, they seem to have a knack for stringing that contact together in a useful way. But replay this World Series 50 times, and there will be sweeps and comebacks and unwelcome results that sting the Royals. Those singles don't show up every time.

What the Royals do better, much better, than any team in baseball right now:

  1. Catch the balls that are put into play
  2. Hold onto leads

That's it, that's the secret sauce. The singles are great, and the propensity for contact is fun to watch, but they could just as easily swing for the fences, like the Blue Jays, on every pitch, and it would probably work just as well. A run is a run is a run, and if they need to get one through singles and swipes, fine, but they wouldn't complain if they got some sweet, sweet Steve Balboni action instead. It doesn't matter. As long as they ...

  1. Catch the balls that are put into play
  2. Hold onto leads

You know this is true because it's the opposite of what the Mets did in Game 4. Daniel Murphy was a cult hero, a postseason icon, a deacon in the Church of Jeff Weaver, and then he had a couple lousy games. Then he booted a ball. Then he just missed one under his glove. Let's check in with the official SB Nation World Series preview:

Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy are rough up the middle. The Royals are a contact team. That's all that keeps running through my mind, Lisa/dental plan-style. I could see this series coming down to the Royals hitting balls just out of their reach. I could see the Royals going an entire series hitting balls directly at them.

Tooot toooot toooooooot. The Royals are designed to put pressure on a team like the Mets, on a team with a second baseman who can occasionally swallow a ball or just miss a slow grounder through the right side. They're designed to punish a sub-optimal defender in center, like Yoenis Cespedes, which they've already done a couple times this Series.

The Royals are designed to catch baseballs. Baseball gods help you if you have momentary lapses of catching. That's how they work.

The Royals are designed to hold leads. Baseball gods help you if you have momentary lapses of lead-holding. That's how they work.

Jeurys Familia pitched on Friday night with a six-run lead. Think of the worst major league pitcher you've ever watched. Literally the worst major leaguer. I've got Wayne Franklin, and I'm sorry if you Google your own name, Wayne, but, dude. Whatever pitcher you're thinking of could hold a six-run lead ... 98 percent of the time. There would be close calls and the rare freakish blown save, but if you put the worst pitcher you could think of in that situation, they'll succeed more often than not.

Familia pitched because, dunno, whatever. Mets manager Terry Collins said Familia was strong enough to pitch in Games 4 and 5, but he needed the work after a couple off days. Which makes sense, until you realize that Familia's Game 3 work made him ineligible for two-inning work in Game 4.

Instead, Tyler Clippard came in. He's lost three strikeouts for every nine innings he's pitched over the last year, a red flag that shoots out of a red flag out of a red flag, Dr. Seuss-style, but he's the Mets' best option if Familia isn't available for two innings. Two walks, and he was done.

Familia allowed an error. Then he allowed a single that most second basemen at least knock down. Then he allowed a solid line drive. And now he's the one with the scarlet "BS" on his forehead. Everyone's going to be quick to blame the Royals' devil magic or luck or right-place-at-the-right-time juju. Except it's that the Royals ...

  1. Catch the balls that are put into play
  2. Hold onto leads

It's not an easy formula to emulate. You needed to find plus fielders who can justify their existence in a major league lineup, and then you need to summon a Wade Davis, who is an immortal bullpen god. The Mets have so much going for them and their roster, and if this series started tomorrow, we could be talking about how it's unfair that Harvey/Syndergaard/deGrom/Matz could be in the same rotation, and how they're allowed to throw 32 innings of one-run ball in the World Series.

But they might not be the best at catching the balls put into play. They might not be the best at holding onto leads. And in this World Series -- this one right here, this exact situation -- that's a bad place to be.

Daniel Murphy watched a VHS tape of how his Sports Illustrated cover was made, then his phone rang, and something whispered "seven days", and he made the error-and-just-out-of-reach combo that helped the Mets lose a game they needed to win. Considering the Mets are here because of him in the first place, that's a rough sequence.

But the Royals catch the ball, and they shorten the game with their bullpen. It's how they made it to the World Series last year. It's how they're overwhelming favorites to win it this year. The singles help. They sure do put that ball in play. But reading too much into dribblers through the right side or up the middle would be a mistake. That's the third-best thing about the Royals, give or take.

The best strengths of the Royals are even more prominent in contrast to the Mets in a game like that. The Mets' equivalent would be to throw 27 innings of fire and dominance over the next three games, highlighting their starting pitcher advantage. It could happen.

The Royals' strengths -- other than the mercurial, heartbreaking singles -- are more reliable. That's why they're here. That's why they'll probably win. Look at these Royals.