Royals’ Hosmer: ‘We’d like to think we brought this city together again’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This Royals team grinded all season.

This team came back from a humiliating home sweep at the hands of the lowly Houston Astros in May. This team came back from being two games under .500 in late July.

And this team came back from being hopelessly out of the Wild Card Game a month ago.

But the Royals could not climb one final mountain — the now larger-than-life Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ dominating left-hander who won Games 1 and 5, and then sealed the clincher in Game 7 with five suffocating innings in the Giants’ 3-2 victory.

But in the end, this was a Royals team that will be remembered for bringing a baseball fever back to this town, and connecting with a whole new generation of fans while reconnecting with its glorious past.

"We would like to think we brought this city together again," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We’d like to think we will be back in the playoffs for years to come.

"It’s just hard to think about that right now. It hurts."

Royals players walked through an eerily silent clubhouse after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss, consoled each other and hugged each other, and vowed to get back to the playoffs against next season and finish the job.

"We know we have talent on this team," center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. "You can’t take anything for granted but yeah, you want to believe we’ll get back."

As much as Game 7 stung, Royals players, one after another, tried to put into perspective what a magnificent run it was in the 2014 playoffs.

"For us to go undefeated going into the World Series," right-hander James Shields said, "I mean, that’s pretty unreal."

Added designated hitter Billy Butler: "I think this was the best 30 days of our lives, for everyone in here. This was a tremendous ride. It’s hard to think about it now. But it really was something special."

And while both Shields and Butler could be gone next year — Shields is a free agent, and the Royals don’t seem likely to exercise Butler’s option in 2015 — both agreed that the foundation on this team has been built for several postseason runs in the future.

"I think there is a lot of talent on this team," Butler said. "Everyone watching on TV could see that through the playoffs. It’s not just one or two guys — we have talent everywhere and we should be back (to the playoffs).

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"Whether I’m a part of it or not, I know it’s going to be a solid team again. I want to be a part of it. I hope this isn’t my last game as a Royal. I hope we can negotiate something.

"But I know it’s a small-market team and decisions have to be made. We’ll see."

Shields, too, could have seen his last days as a Royal. But he accomplished what he pledged he would do during his two-year stint here — get the Royals to the postseason.

"I know I’m going to be a free agent," Shields said. "I know some decisions have to be made. But right now I’m just going to go home and spend Halloween with my kids and my family and not think about it."

Royals players naturally took this loss hard.

"We just had so many dramatic wins along the way," Hosmer said. "We had the extra-inning wins and the sweeps, and then for it to end, it’s just hard to get used to.

"I don’t know when this is going to sink in. Maybe one day in the offseason it will. And maybe one day in the offseason I can reflect on it all."

Added Cain: "It was a great season. It was a great run. Everyone in here gave it everything they had. It’s just hard right now to think about all that."

Even general manager Dayton Moore, as stoic as it gets coping with tough losses, looked shaken and solemn.

"Maybe we can think about what we accomplished in a week or so," Moore said. "Right now it stings. It hurts.

"But we’ll move on eventually. We’ll get past this. We have something here we can build on.

"The players … we know they have a taste of it now. And once you have a taste of the postseason, a taste of a Game 7, you want to get back as soon as you can and you concentrate all your efforts on that.

"This is a talented group of players. A lot of good young players who will be with us. We will have some decisions to make, of course, but the core group of guys will be back. As much as this hurts now, this will serve us well going forward."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.