50 Greatest Kauffman Stadium Moments, #49: Justin Maxwell’s Walkoff Grand Slam (September 22, 2013)

Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.

Unlike Ken Harvey’s home run, this one came at the end of the season. But it was still a herald of good times to come.

What I said last time about the 2003 team being an oasis in a desert of losing? The Royals lost 310 games over the next three seasons, then posted 90+ losses in five of the next six seasons. But in 2013, the most recent youth movement seemed like it was bearing fruit. An 18-13 start got the fans’ attention, only to be followed by a 4-17 stretch. The Royals got back to .500 and hovered just under that mark until the All-Star Break, then won Dayton Moore’s proverbial 15 of 20 that he offered as justification for not making trades of pending free agents; actually, they won 21 of 29. They were still not really a threat to win the division, but they were at least a wild-card contender, and they were fun to watch.

Still on the fringes of the wild-card race, the Royals played well in September. They entered the last home game of the season just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot, although with eight games remaining, pretty much everyone understood it would take a miracle.

They didn’t get a miracle, but Royals fans got a memorable moment to last through the offseason. The Royals and Rangers, who were also in the mix for a playoff spot (and ahead of the Royals, for that matter), traded zeros for nine innings. In the bottom of the 10th, Eric Hosmer led off with a double. Former Royal Joakim Soria, who had been so good on some very bad teams, took over for Texas on the mound. He walked Billy Butler intentionally, and Salvador Perez reached on an infield single. But Soria recovered to retire the next two hitters. Justin Maxwell, acquired in a July 31 trade, stepped to the plate. He worked the count full, then hammered a Soria pitch to the Hall of Fame building beyond the left-field fence.

The blast meant the Royals would have a winning record for the first time since 2003. They ended the season with an 86-76 mark, their best season since 1989. While they fell short of the playoffs, that taste of a pennant race served them well the next two seasons.

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