The Kansas City Royals dodged questionable managerial decision-making, a rain delay and a fierce Toronto Blue Jays comeback to take Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, 4-3, and set up a World Series showdown with the New York Mets.
With Friday's game tied 3-3 following a 45-minute rain delay in the middle of the eighth inning, the Royals responded with a single to deep right from Eric Hosmer that drove in the speedy Lorenzo Cain all the way from first. According to Fox Sports, Hosmer's clutch RBI tied him with George Brett for the franchise's postseason record (23).
Closer Wade Davis took the mound in the ninth and induced a Josh Donaldson groundout to cap things off, but the final frame was engulfed in drama. Toronto had the game's tying run on third and go-ahead run on first with none out, but Davis eventually settled down and retired the next three batters to send Kansas City to its second World Series in as many years.
However, Davis' path to glory in the ninth wasn't without controversy.
The Blue Jays' hopes were fading entering the bottom of the seventh inning, but Ben Revere kept his team afloat by robbing what would have been an extra-base hit off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
Revere then reached base on an infield single to start the eighth inning before Jose Bautista stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run shot to left field off reliever Ryan Madson to tie things at three.
Combined with his solo home run in the fourth inning, Bautista became the first player in Blue Jays history to hit multiple home runs in a playoff game, per Sportsnet's Shi Davidi. SportsCenter added that the "last time a player hit a game-tying or go-ahead HR in 8th inning or later of Game 6 or 7 in ALCS was Aaron Boone in 2003."
The question—which was raised by Fox Sports' Rob Neyer—regarded Yost's decision to bring Madson in to face Bautista when Davis was well-equipped to do so:
Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star observed a stark contrast between Yost's decision-making during the team's last two October runs:
Davis finally took the mound after Bautista's damage was done, but the rain delay threatened to cut his evening short, as Bleacher Report's Scott Miller noted:
Prior to the eighth-inning revival, Toronto's offense appeared dead in the water. Bautista's fourth-inning home run aside, the Blue Jays squandered opportunities to push runs across the plate and provide David Price with adequate run support, including a two-on, no-out proposition in the fifth.
With the exception of the Royals' two solo shots, Price was quite solid across 6.1 innings. He only allowed five hits while striking out eight, but he's still searching for a win in a postseason start.
The Blue Jays got Price off the hook for a loss with their two-run eighth inning, but they couldn't do the same for Roberto Osuna in the ninth. With Dalton Pompey on third and Kevin Pillar on first with nobody out, pinch hitter Dioner Navarro struck out while Pillar stole second. Revere then struck out before Donaldson grounded out to end the game.
Ben Zobrist put Kansas City on the board with a 373-foot solo home run to left field in the first inning, and the Royals proceeded to build on that lead in the second.
Moustakas—who entered Game 6 with a .132 postseason average and 1-for-12 mark at the plate over his past three appearances—finally got his groove back by smashing a 409-foot solo shot to center to stretch Kansas City's lead to two.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, those jacks were significant for multiple reasons:
Furthermore, Price tied the MLB record for playoff games (four) with at least two home runs allowed, per Sportsnet Stats on Twitter. The other two members of that infamous club are Tom Glavine and Jaret Wright. On a night that morphed into one big statistical anomaly, Alex Rios also became the first runner to steal a base against Price this season, according to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.
Rios and the Royals will now turn their attention to the Mets, who are coming off a convincing sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. Wielding the hottest pitching staff in baseball, New York should provide a stiff test for the Royals when play gets underway Tuesday.
However, Kansas City has redemption on its mind after falling just short against the San Francisco Giants in last year's Fall Classic. It may not be the matchup many expected when the season started, but the Royals and Mets are both playing their best ball with a championship hanging in the balance.
As the Royals celebrated on the field, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons broke down the loss with reporters, per Sportsnet:
Davis didn't look quite right against the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning, and he may have revealed one reason behind the brief struggles, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan:
Kansas City's closer was evidently dealing with more than rest-related health concerns, according to McCullough:
Elsewhere, Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele explained Kansas City had scouted Bautista's throwing tendencies and decided to send Cain home as a result of that extensive research, per Kilgore:
Alex Gordon even poked fun at himself while praising Cain's speed:
Once the tactical minutiae had been broken down, it was time to let loose in the clubhouse, per the Royals' official Twitter account:
"Lets go finish what we didn't finish last year," Royals owner David Glass said, according to Fox Sports 1 on Twitter.