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Royals finished what they started in 2014

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez dunks manager

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez dunks manager Ned Yost after Game 5 of the World Series against the New York Mets on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, at Citi Field. Photo Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

It was a title 368 days in the making.

From the time Salvador Perez popped out against the Giants' Madison Bumgarner to end Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 29, 2014, stranding the tying run at third base, the Royals set their sights on completing the job in 2015.

"Last year was such a hard defeat for us in Game 7," manager Ned Yost said after his team won the Royals' first championship in 30 years with a 7-2, 12-inning victory over the Mets in Game 5 on Sunday night. "Everybody came to spring training as determined a group that I've ever seen. They were going to get back and they were going to finish the deal this time."

The Royals, predicted by few to return to the postseason, burst from the gate with a 15-7 April on their way to a 52-34 first half. With a huge division lead and control of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs entering September, they stumbled to an 11-17 final month but won their final five games to secure the AL's top seed.

Except for those three weeks in September, it was prolonged excellence from the word go.

"You could tell from the first day of spring training, Opening Day, the first month of the season, you could just see the way this group was ready to go from Day 1," first baseman Eric Hosmer said in the early-morning hours Monday. "And we just didn't look back from there."

Hosmer's risky dash home in the ninth inning of Game 5 in many ways synopsized the 2015 Royals -- confident, daring, relentless, prepared.

With Hosmer at third base, one out and the Royals trailing 2-1, Salvador Perez chopped a grounder to third. Hosmer took off for the plate as soon as David Wright threw to Lucas Duda at first.

The Royals' advance scouts, who fanned out across the sport to cover contending teams during the final weeks of the season, stated in their reports that Duda's arm couldn't be trusted and should be tested. Hosmer did, scoring easily as Duda's throw came in high and wide right and went all the way to the backstop.

"That's the style of baseball we play, aggressive baseball," said Lorenzo Cain, who started the inning with a walk and a stolen base against Matt Harvey and scored on Hosmer's double to make the score 2-1. "I wouldn't expect anything less. We made the first baseman make a play and he didn't."

Of the Royals' 11 postseason victories this year, eight were of the comeback variety. They scored 51 runs in the seventh inning or later in the postseason, smashing the record of 36 established by the 2002 Angels, according to

"If I watched very many more of these games," joked club owner David Glass, 80, "I'd get gray-headed."

How the Royals will respond to baseball's ultimate success remains to be seen. That's a story line for the spring. Throughout 2015, they showed how they respond to disappointment.

"The cool thing about this team is everything they set out to accomplish, they did," Yost said. "They wanted to win the division, they won it by [12] games. They wanted to win home-field advantage for the playoffs, they did. They wanted to win the World Series, they did. So it's just a special, special group that doesn't come around very often."

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