After sitting through a 40-minute rain delay, Royals closer Wade Davis got likely American League MVP Josh Donaldson to ground out to third with two outs and the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the top of the ninth to nail down a thrilling 4–3 win in Game 6 of the ALCS. The result delivered the Royals their second American League pennant in as many years and just the fourth in franchise history. Kansas City is the first repeat pennant winner since the 2010–11 Texas Rangers and is looking to become the first team to win the World Series the year after losing it since the 1989 A’s. The Royals will meet the Mets in Kansas City for Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 8 pm. ET. In the meantime, here are three thoughts on Kansas City’s wild, see-saw victory.
Cain’s mad dash
That 40-minute rain delay paused Game 6 in the middle of the eighth inning with the score tied 3–3. The Blue Jays had just tied things up in the top of the inning, but it took just two batters in the bottom of the inning after play resumed for the Royals to reclaim the lead. Lorenzo Cain led off and worked Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna for an eight-pitch walk, laying off a good slider low and away for ball four. Eric Hosmer followed with a base hit to the rightfield corner, and Cain, who was responsible for two of the seven fastest first-to-home times during the regular season, raced all the way around to score. In part, Cain was taking advantage of rightfielder Jose Bautista’s fundamentally sound decision to throw to second to hold Hosmer to a single, but there was no reason for Bautista to expect Cain to be attempting to score from first on a base hit to right. Second baseman Ryan Goins was caught off guard as well, as was Cain, who was aiming for third base but was waived home by third base coach Mike Jirschele. Cain scored easily ahead of Goins’s relay throw, unofficially going from first to home in less than 11 seconds and bringing the pennant-winning run with him.
Royals’ bullpen human!
For the first time in 26 postseason games over the last two Octobers, the Royals blew a save after the sixth inning. Yordano Ventura and early home runs by Ben Zobrist, as the second batter of the game, and Mike Moustakas, on a ball caught by a fan at the top of the centerfield wall and upheld on review, passed a 2–1 lead to the Royals’ top relievers with a man on second and one out in the sixth. Kelvin Herrera did his job, stranding that runner and working a perfect seventh, retiring all five men he faced. However, things went very differently for Ryan Madson in the eighth.
Madson worked scoreless innings in Game 1 and 4 of this series, but had allowed three home runs in the division series against the Astros and seven runs (five earned) in just 1 2/3 innings across four outings against the Blue Jays during the regular season. Here, protecting a one-run lead, he gave up a leadoff single to Ben Revere. Then, after striking out Josh Donaldson looking, gave up a game-tying home run to Jose Bautista, who had homered for the Blue Jays’ first run of the game in the fourth inning.
That home run was less Madson’s fault than it was a credit to Bautista. Bautista’s fourth-inning homer was the hardest-hit ball he hit all year, leaving his bat at 112 mph and traveling 430 feet, and the game-tying shot came on a 97-mph fastball at the top of the strike zone. That’s not a home-run pitch, but it resulted in Madson’s first blown save since May 12, just his third of the year, and the first by a Royals pitcher this postseason.
Moustakas’s game-saving stab
Bautista cut the Royals’ early 2–0 lead in half in the top of the fourth. The following inning, Ventura walked Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar on five pitches each to give the Blue Jays their first runner in scoring position since Revere led off the game with a double and was stranded at second base. Ventura got Ryan Goins and Revere to fly out without the runners advancing for the first two outs of the inning. However, Josh Donaldson jumped on the first pitch he saw from Ventura, a 91-mph cutter, and hit it as hard as he had hit any ball all season in a 41-home run campaign that is likely to land him the MVP award. The exit velocity of that pitch off Donaldson’s bat was 114 mph, harder than either of Bautista’s home runs or any ball the Royals hit off David Price early in the game, which included home runs by Zobrist and Moustakas. However, Donaldson didn’t get the ball up. His shot was a sinking liner to the immediate left of third baseman Moustakas, and Moustakas, showing spectacular reflexes, managed to get his glove in front of it and snag it for an inning-ending out. If that ball got by Moustakas, it likely would have tied the game and brought up Bautista with another runner in scoring position. Instead, it ended the inning and the Blue Jays’ rally, a crucial moment in a game decided by a single run.