HOUSTON - That the Kansas City Royals pulled a similar feat of remarkable daring in the 2014 American League wild-card game in no way diminishes what they did on Monday while staving off elimination and sending the AL Division Series back to Kauffman Stadium for a decisive fifth game.
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon plated the go-ahead run with a groundout to cap a stunning five-run, eighth-inning rally in the Kansas City Royals' 9-6 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
While Gordon pushed the Royals in front with his RBI groundout off Astros closer Luke Gregerson, he merely put the bow on a breathtaking display of plate discipline. The first five Royals batters recorded singles in the 53-pitch eighth, with center fielder Lorenzo Cain chasing right-hander Will Harris with his RBI single to left field to score Alex Rios.
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales followed an RBI single from first baseman Eric Hosmer with a chopper through the box off left-hander Tony Sipp (0-1), with Sipp and shortstop Carlos Correa whiffing on the grounder to allow second baseman Ben Zobrist and Cain to score the fifth and tying run, respectively. Last postseason, the Royals rallied from a four-run deficit to eliminate the Athletics en route to the AL pennant.
"You have confidence that sooner or later they're going to put together some hits, they're going to put some runs on the board," said manager Ned Yost, whose Royals will host Game 5 on Wednesday night. "And even though we were down four in the eighth inning, I felt real confident that we were going to make a game out of it. I just felt that the bats were going to come alive, and they really did in the eighth inning. I mean really did."
Hosmer, who entered the eighth batting .067 (1-for-15) in the ALDS, added a two-run homer in the ninth off right-hander Josh Fields.
Hosmer scored the winning run when Gordon delivered with two outs an inning earlier and was quick to note the number of contributors in the turnaround frame, including backup catcher Drew Butera, who worked a 10-pitch walk off Gregerson to set the table for Gordon. All told, six Royals came to the plate before the Astros recorded an out.
"The mindset really from the whole entire team, the whole entire offense, was just make this at-bat count," Hosmer said. "Obviously we're pretty late in the game right there and down by four, so not one guy can get us back in this game. So we've got to do whatever we can to keep the line moving."
Royals right-hander Wade Davis slammed the door with two scoreless innings of relief, squaring the series at 2-2 with his second save of the ALDS. By the close of the seventh inning, that scenario seemed unlikely.
The Astros slugged a pair of home runs to turn a 3-2 lead into a four-run cushion. Correa, at 21 years and 20 days old, became the youngest player in American League history to record a multi-homer game in the postseason, adding a two-run blast off Royals right-hander Ryan Madson (1-0) to his solo shot off right-hander Yordano Ventura in the third. Colby Rasmus followed with a solo shot, his fourth of the postseason, to nudge the Astros six outs away from the AL Championship Series.
Correa added a leadoff single in the ninth and finished 4-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored. But his heroics at the plate were offset somewhat by the potential double-play groundball he failed to field.
"I missed it. That's what happened," Correa said of Morales' grounder. "I wish I was perfect. I wish I could do everything perfect, but I'm not. I'm human."
Astros rookie right-hander Lance McCullers was sharp in his postseason debut, limiting the Royals to two runs on two hits (including a two-run home run by Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the second inning) and two walks with seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings. But the Astros' bullpen collapse wiped his name from the marquee and shifted momentum in dramatic fashion, turning the Astros from presumed series victors to needing another road win to keep their season alive.
"We got a pretty good team, we got a good resilient group," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have youth on our side, we'll have a ton of energy and we'll show up ready to play."
Notes: Astros manager A.J. Hinch reaffirmed his commitment to DH Evan Gattis despite Gattis' postseason struggles. Gattis is batting .158 with one RBI, five strikeouts, no walks and no extra-base hits over five games, yet hit fifth en route to finishing 1-for-4 while leaving four runners on base. ... Royals manager Ned Yost opted to save RHPs Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson for Game 4 once the Royals fell behind on Sunday. With the Royals facing elimination, Yost wanted his best relievers available to work multiple innings on Monday. ... Astros CF Carlos Gomez was in the starting lineup for a second consecutive game despite reporting no improvement in his strained left intercostal. Gomez homered off Royals RHP Yordano Ventura in the second inning and added a single in the seventh.