Both the Royals and Giants qualified for the postseason as wild-card teams, and the winner has had to win a record 12 games to win the World Series.
Six teams have previously won the championship as a wild card: Florida (1997, 2003), Los Angeles Angels (2002), Boston (2004) and St. Louis (2011).
“It makes it so much more interesting,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of the wild card, which was instituted in 1994 and modified in 2012, when a second wild card team was added.
“It gives other teams hope. Even going down to the last day we were fighting to try to win the division. We knew that we had home-field advantage in the wild card, which was a goal that we wanted to get, but we didn’t win the division.
“But we all sat back and have watched teams that have gotten in on the wild card go to the World Series and be successful in the World Series. So that gave us hope. What we needed to do was just get past that one-game elimination, and then get into a regular five-game playoff scenario where we could hopefully advance, and we’ve done that quite nicely.”
While the Royals were the first wild card in the American League and faced Oakland at home for the epic 12-inning victory, the Giants were the second wild card in the National League and had to win at Pittsburgh to advance to the divisional series.
“I love the wild card,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “It’s a beautiful thing. It gives another team a chance, another city hope that their team can get in there. It says something about parity in baseball.
Wild-card teams are usually pretty good teams, too, and they’re usually fighting so hard to get there at the end. So there’s a good chance they’re playing well. In baseball, anything can happen when you get to the playoffs. You get good pitching, timely hitting, you’re getting a good chance to keep moving. That’s what happened to us, that’s what happened to Kansas City. You get two teams that get hot and were playing well at the right time.”
Post-anthem letdown – Opera star Joyce DiDonato, a Wichita State graduate, did just fine singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Game 7.
Then, as the longtime Royals fan was walking off the field, she tripped in the batter’s box and managed to catch herself. But after regaining her balance, the Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano took another step or two and fell to the dirt, as dramatically as she might on the stages of the world’s greatest opera houses.
The 45-year-old DiDonato laughed at her misstep and the Kansas City crowd cheered her effort.
Before Game 5 in San Francisco, county singer Aaron Lewis messed up the lyrics to the anthem in San Francisco. Lewis, acclaimed as the lead singer of the metal band Staind, later apologized for the mistake.
The All-Star advantage — The Royals enjoyed home-field advantage for the World Series by virtue of the American League’s winning the All-Star Game 5-3 in Minneapolis this season.
The format for determining home-field advantage was implemented following the tie in the 2002 All-Star Game, and entering this year, the team representing the league that won the All-Star Game had won eight of 11 World Series.
“It means a lot,” Royals manager Ned Yost said before game seven. “But for me, it’s just as much having our home fans here and having our crowd here behind us. To have that energy cheering for you instead of against you, our guys feed off of that.
“Guys who have been pitching all year long that you want to push for an extra out or two, those fans help them do that. It’s the adrenaline factor that comes into play when you’re pitching in front of your home crowd and there is that much energy. It’s a big boost for us to be able to play games one and two, and six and seven here in front of our crowd.
Royals closer Greg Holland may have been clairvoyant after pitching a scoreless seventh inning and picking up a hold in the American League’s victory.
“We feel good about our team, fully anticipate to be in the mix at the end of the year,” Holland said back in mid-July. “Anytime you have home-field advantage in a seven-game series, it’s big.”