By Will Burchfield
The Detroit Tigers are in Kansas City this weekend for a crucial three-game set with the Royals.
But they’re not just taking on the hottest team in baseball. Oh, hardly.
Amid a climate of growing consternation, the Tigers, against all odds, are taking on the supernatural power of the famed Rally Mantis.
Haven’t heard? Proceed at your own risk.
Since adopting a praying mantis that landed in their dugout on August 6, the Royals are a staggering 19-6. Nature tried to intervene by killing off the mantis a week later, but its spirit came back with a vengeance. That’s right, the Rally Mantis returned in Detroit, back from the dead, setting off another eight-game Royals winning streak.
By now, its divine capacity is not to be questioned.
“I don’t know how much of an effect a praying mantis really has on their record, but they’ve been hot so I guess I can’t argue with it,” said Brad Ausmus, a mere mortal in this story.
If anyone should know of the mystical powers of the praying mantis, it is Ausmus. He grew up with them in Connecticut, where the European Mantis is the state insect. And recently, the mantis lord sent two disciples Ausmus’ way.
A treaty? A threat? Ausmus isn’t sure.
“Ironically we’ve had praying mantises in our dugout this homestand twice. One in the dugout, and then one peering right over the top, just two eyeballs. So I don’t know,” he said, pondering his next move.
Could the Tigers bring a mantis of their own to Kansas City? Might they try to reclaim the one the Royals stole? Would such a mission even be possible?
“I don’t even want to touch them,” Ausmus said, deeming himself unworthy. “In Connecticut, I don’t think you can touch them. You definitely can’t hit them with a fly swatter.”
It’s not a matter of legality. Mantises aren’t protected by law. But their ethereal essence seems impervious to earthly harm.
Nevertheless, the Tigers will soldier into Kansas City this weekend and do their courageous best. The Royals are three games behind them in the Wild Card standings, the wings of the Rally Mantis beating with fury.
“We’ve gotta bring our A-game,” Ausmus said. “They’ve played very well against us this year.”
The Royals are 9-4 versus the Tigers so far, 3-0 with their new weapon.
Are the Tigers doomed?
“I don’t care, man, it’s just a bug,” said Tyler Collins. “If that’s what they want to believe in, we believe in ourselves, so we’re going to go play.”