KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Justin Maxwell’s clutch, eventual game-winning homer in extra innings in the Royals’ 4-3 win on Saturday set off a celebration in the Royals’ dugout that resembled a team winning a playoff game.
Maxwell’s teammates jumped and hugged and high-fived each other with the type of exuberance rarely seen over the years in Royal land.
“These guys sure know how to make you feel welcome,” Maxwell says. “It made me feel like I’ve been with the team for years.”
Of course, Maxwell hadn’t. He’d been with the Royals only a few days, and that massive celebration in New York certainly was a departure from the dismay and all-around grumbling from many Royals fans when they heard he became part of the only trade-deadline deal that general manager Dayton Moore pulled off.
Fans were hoping for a major splash at last week’s deadline and instead got a backup outfielder from the Houston Astros they most likely had never heard of.
But they’re not grumbling so much now. Maxwell has hit in all four games he has appeared in and is 4 for 6 overall.
And his game-winning blast Saturday assures that Moore, at least for now, has “won” that trade. The Royals gave up low-A pitching prospect Kyle Smith for Maxwell.
“He’s a guy we’ve known about for some time,” Moore says of Maxwell. “He is a big kid who is very athletic and who fits our ballpark. He’s an excellent defensive outfielder and he can hit for some power.”
The trade was far more welcome in Maxwell’s eyes. He went from an Astros team with the worst record in baseball to a team in the hunt for a playoff spot.
“I really didn’t know that much about the Royals,” Maxwell says. “I knew they were in the hunt. But then once I got here, I could tell there was such a different atmosphere than where I’d been.
“We were trying to win in Houston, too. But obviously, it’s a lot different here. It’s more intense when you’re trying for the playoffs.”
Maxwell, though, won’t slam his former team.
“They were trying, too,” he says. “For me, it still was a learning experience there. It’s just tough when you lose a lot.”
But Maxwell hasn’t seen much of that since he joined the Royals, who now have won 12 of 13 games and are 14-3 since the All-Star break.
“This is a pretty complete team,” he says. “The pitching staff is really, really good. And we got some really good young hitters. I’m going to like this.”
And Maxwell, 29, instantly has become part of the mix, especially after his bomb Saturday.
“You know I really wasn’t trying to hit a homer there,” he says, smiling. “It may have looked like I was, but I just tried to get a short swing on it. There’s a saying that goes, ‘Short is sweet, long is wrong.’ I got a good short swing on it.
“I was just happy I got a chance to help us that day. Man, that was fun.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.