"It's hard to stay awake, the games are so boring," manager Ned Yost deadpanned in the Royals' happy clubhouse.
The way this one ended might cause a sleepless night for the red-clad Cardinals fans in the crowd of 42,001. It was a nightmare for them, a dream for the visitors in blue who dotted the stands.
"It was a crazy play," said Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, who collected his 100th career save as a result of the madness.
Broxton got two outs in the ninth inning, the first as shortstop Alcides Escobar slid across the left-field grass to snare Yadier Molina's grounder into the hole and somehow threw him out.
"Molina is running and, even though I'm diving, I've got time to get him out at first," Escobar said.
Just barely. Then, Broxton fanned Matt Adams, but Tyler Greene hit a single on another ball that Escobar flagged down in the hole. Greene wanted to steal second base and took off. Humberto Quintero's throw was in time but bounced off Greene's leg and away from Escobar.
"I saw the ball kind of float out to left field, so I figured I had a good chance of getting to third," Greene said.
Second baseman Chris Getz recovered the loose ball and, on hindsight, decided he should have merely held onto it and let Greene stop at third. But, in the heat of the moment, he decided to throw the ball.
"When Getzy picked up the ball I screamed 'No!' so loud, I lost my voice for three minutes," Yost said.
"Obviously, he didn't yell loud enough," Getz said wryly.
Getz's throw sailed past third baseman Mike Moustakas and headed for an opening in the dugout screen. If it goes in, Greene gets a free pass to home plate and the score is 3-3. Or maybe he can just beat the play.
"I took a peek and saw it almost go in the dugout there. I took a chance, went home," Greene said.
Broxton watched in fascinated horror as Moustakas pursued the ball and snatched it up.
"All I could see was that hole it was going in, and I was, 'Oh, no!' And somehow it hit the pole and bounced straight out. He came up and fired a dead strike to home, and that was it," Broxton said. "It was a very weird play, but a special play."
Quintero blocked off Greene's foot with his own foot, keeping him off the plate until he applied the tag on his chest. Home-plate umpire Alan Porter called Greene out, and the game was, in a breathless moment, over.
"On that play, you've just got to get it and get rid of it and give your catcher a chance," Moustakas said. "Luckily it hit [Quintero] right in the glove, and [Quintero] did a great job of blocking the plate."
For the Royals, it was a perfect ending to an evening that saw starting pitcher Vin Mazzaro throw six scoreless innings and Getz score what became the deciding run with an artful slide.
Mazzaro stymied the Cardinals on five hits and held a 2-0 lead when he exited. But, while pitching in the sixth, he felt tightness in his right calf, and Yost decided to take him out of the game after he got the third out in that inning.
Immediately after that, Getz led off the seventh inning against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse with a single, and he took third on Eric Hosmer's single. Jeff Francoeur flied out to Carlos Beltran in center field, and Getz tagged up and headed home. Beltran fired a strike to the plate.
"That third run was huge. Getzy's slide at the plate was phenomenal. It wasn't an extremely deep fly ball, and that was just pure athleticism to get around Molina, one of the best plate-blockers in the game," Yost said.
The 3-0 lead shrank when Roman Colon, just up from Triple-A Omaha, gave up two runs on three hits in the seventh. Jose Mijares had to come in to get the third out of that inning. Then, in the eighth, Aaron Crow had two on and one out with World Series hero David Freese at the plate.
"I felt he was one pitch away from getting a double play, and he got it," Yost said.
On came Broxton to get what was his 16th save this season and the 100th of his career. Probably none of them had a wilder finish.
"We've been practicing that play," Yost said slyly. "It's a play we've been working on all spring. We executed it flawlessly."
With a lot of help from Lady Luck.