The Royals’ spectacular postseason ended 90 feet short, with the tying run on third base in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the World Series, but it won’t be soon forgotten. Nor should it be. For one thing, no team that lost the World Series ever had a better postseason than the one Kansas City just went through. That’s not a matter of opinion. Sure, the narrative holds up, as this young, tools-laden Royals team snapped a 29-year playoff drought, dodged elimination in the bottom of the ninth and 12th innings of the Wild-Card Game, won their first three postseason games in extra innings, swept their way to the pennant and pushed the now-dynastic Giants to the absolute limit in Game 7 of the World Series.
Set all of that aside for a moment and focus just on this: Kansas City went 11-4 in the postseason. That’s a .733 winning percentage against the best teams in baseball in the highest-stakes games of season. No team has ever played that well in the postseason and failed to bring home a championship.
Obviously, prior to the advent of the Division Series, it was impossible for a team to lose the World Series with a record better than 7-4. That would occur if a team swept the League Championship Series, 4-0, then lost the World Series in seven games, but no team ever did. In fact, this year’s Royals are the first team in major league history to pull that particular feat. In the Wild-Card Era, one team did manage to go 7-4 in the postseason and lose the World Series, that being the 2007 Rockies, though they did it a different way, sweeping the Division Series (3-0) and the NLCS (4-0), then getting swept by the Red Sox in the World Series (0-4). Colorado's .636 postseason winning percentage had not been surpassed by any other team to lose the World Series until this year, when Kansas City obliterated it with its .733 mark.
You might think, “big deal, so the Royals won more than any other loser.” That’s only part of the reason they made history. Including this year’s Giants, there have been 20 World Series winners in the Wild-Card Era. Kansas City had a higher postseason winning percentage than 13 of them, including each of the last six. That’s right, despite losing the World Series to them, the Royals had a better record this postseason than the Giants, going 11-4 (.733) to San Francisco’s 12-5 (.706). That is only the second time in World Series history that the losing team finished the postseason with a better record than the victor. The other time came in 2011, when the Rangers, who twice came within one strike of their franchise's first championship in Game 6 but lost the Series in seven, went 10-6 (.625) to the Cardinals’ 11-7 (.611).
The Royals also came as close to tying a Game 7 in the bottom of the ninth as any losing team ever has. Only twice before, in 1946 and 1962, had a team lost a Game 7 with the tying run at third base. In '46, the Red Sox actually had a man, pinch-runner Paul Campbell, at third base with one out but couldn't get him in to tie the game against the Cardinals. In '62, the Giants had runners at second and third with two outs for future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, whose screaming line drive was snared by Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson for the final out.
There have been five walkoff wins in World Series Games 7, three of them coming in extra innings. In 1926 Babe Ruth was thrown out trying to steal second base for the Yankees while representing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 against the Cardinals. And in 1972, the Reds' Pete Rose made the final out in the bottom of the ninth with the tying run on first base against the A's. Gordon got to third with two outs on Wednesday when his single was misplayed into a two-base error by Giants centerfielder Gregor Blanco, but Gordon was stranded when Salvador Perez fouled out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Given all of the above, it can be stated factually -- and rather easily -- that no team has ever had a better postseason without winning the World Series than the 2014 Kansas City Royals.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the number of teams to lose the World Series in Game 7 with the tying run on third base.
SI's Best Photos From Game 7 of the 2014 World Series
Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey celebrate after the final out. Bumgarner made his much-anticipated appearance out of the bullpen, throwing five innings on two days' rest to preserve a one-run lead, as the San Francisco Giants beat the Royals 3-2 in Kansas City.
With the tying run on third, Pablo Sandoval caught a fly ball in foul territory to end the game and set off a San Francisco celebration.
The Giants are the first team to win Game 7 of the World Series on the road since Pittsburgh in 1979. Their feat broke a streak of nine straight Game 7 wins by the home team.
The Giants were dubbed a "Band of Misfits" in 2010 when they defeated Texas to win the franchise's first title since 1954 in New York. Two years later, they swept Detroit for another championship. And now they're the first team to win three in a five-year span since the Yankees won four rings from 1996 to 2000. (Text credit: AP)
A San Francisco contingent with seats behind the Giants' dugout relished the victory.
Hunter Pence and teammates have this routine down to a science now.
Michael Morse takes a champagne shower.
Free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval celebrates what could be his last playoff win with the Giants.
The Giants have even more celebrations awaiting them in California.
Two days after throwing 117 pitches in a complete-game shutout, Madison Bumgarner came out of the pen and hurled five more scoreless innings on 68 pitches to keep Kansas City at bay.
Bumgarner dropped his record-low career World Series ERA to 0.25.
Joe Panik make a superb defensive play with the game tied at 2-2 in the third inning, flipping the ball out of his glove to start a double play.
Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford turned two double plays in Game 7.
Michael Morse reacts after hitting a run-scoring single in the fourth inning to give the Giants their 3-2 lead.
Royals catcher Sandoval Perez falls down in pain after being hit above the knee in the second inning.
The Royals weren't immediately sure if their veteran catcher would be able to stay in the game.
Perez gets escorted toward first base. He shook off the pain and remained in the game but was held hitless on the night.
Hunter Pence slides into third safely after a fly ball to left.
The heads-up play in the second inning helped Kansas City erase a 2-0 deficit.
Pablo Sandoval was late with the tag on Gordon.
Pablo Sandoval was hit by a pitch and had three hits on the night.
Pablo Sandoval set a new postseason record by getting 26 hits during the Giants' playoff run.
In addition to his three hits in Game 7, Pablo Sandoval scored twice, including the winning run after taking third on a fly out to left by Brandon Belt.
Sandoval's success in the World Series can only help him in free agency.
After Omar Infante greeted Madison Bumgarner with a leadoff single to start off the fifth, Alcides Escobar laid down this sacrifice bunt.
Royals second baseman Omar Infante barehanded this ball in an attempt to throw out Pablo Sandoval at first.
Unfortunately for Infante, he lost his balance and didn't get enough on the throw.
Alex Gordon broke out of his hitting slump and went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Gordon's run tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the second.
Alcides Escobar is forced out at second by Brandon Crawford.
Alex Gordon was hit by a Jeremy Affeldt pitch in the fourth inning.
Hunter Pence scores in the top of the second to give San Francisco a 2-0 lead.
Buster Posey's bat splintered during one of his at-bats.
Omar Infante struggles to get to a ball.
Billy Butler scored on an Alex Gordon double to give the Royals their first run.
His run got most of the crowd of 40,535 pumped up as they rooted for a win by the hometown team.
Even though he was safe on the slide, Butler made doubly sure by touching home plate with his hand.
Mike Moustakas and the Royals reached the first all-wild card World Series by bouncing back from being two games under .500 in mid-July.
Lorenzo Cain tries to break up a double-play throw by Brandon Crawford.
Joe Panik made his major league debut in May and five months later is a World Series champion.
Madison Bumgarner works his magic.
Mike Moustakas breaks his bat while facing Bumgarner in the seventh inning. The Royals got only two hits against him in Game 7.
Kelvin Herrera struck out four Giants in 2 2/3 innings after relieving starter Jeremy Guthrie.
The officials await a replay ruling from the command center in New York on a close play at first. The call was reversed, resulting in an out.
Tim Hudson, at 39 the oldest Game 7 starter, allowed two runs in 1 2-3 innings. (Text credit: AP)
The 35-year-old Guthrie took the loss, giving up three runs in 3 1-3 innings. (Text credit: AP)
Former Royal Bret Saberhagen threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Lorenzo Cain jokes around while getting a haircut before the start of the game.