4 ingredients for Royals to close out ALCS
KANSAS CITY -- Game 6 is, of course, an elimination game for the Blue Jays as they square off with the Royals in the American League Championship Series tonight (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1/Sportsnet, 8 p.m. ET game time).
But Kansas City might be best to consider it an elimination game as well, and play with that kind of reckless, no-tomorrow determination.
Here are four ingredients the Royals will need to end this series at Kauffman Stadium on Friday.
1. Do it now
The Royals can't afford to let down in Game 6 or have any feeling they have a Game 7 safety net. If the Blue Jays win Game 6, they will have all the momentum for a Game 7.
Also, a Game 7 would bring the Johnny Cueto Factor into play. Cueto has been so inconsistent that while Kansas City certainly hopes he could shut down Toronto in a win-or-go-home game, the club can't expect it. The Royals need to treat Game 6 like an elimination game, like they did in last year's AL Wild Card Game and like they did in Games 4 and 5 of this season's AL Division Series.
2. Step up, Yordano
Right-hander Yordano Ventura will take the hill for the Royals, and if he's right, the Royals may have nothing to worry about. Everyone knows Ventura is capable in a big game, just like he was in Game 6 of last year's World Series -- an elimination game -- when he stuffed the Giants through seven scoreless innings. That's the Ventura that manager Ned Yost and Kansas City want and need on Friday.
3. Keep the line moving
It has been mentioned before, but the Royals are at their best when they shorten their swings, put the ball in play and not try to win games individually. They call it their "keep the line moving" mentality.
We saw it in the amazing eighth-inning rally against the Astros in Game 4 of the ALDS. We saw it again in Game 2 of this series against Blue Jays ace David Price, who will be on the mound Friday. The first three Royals got hits in the seventh, and they just kept peppering Price with solid at-bats on their way to five runs, wiping out a 3-0 deficit. Use that simple approach again Friday, and Kansas City will be moving on to the World Series.
4. Play great defense
So far in 2015, the Royals haven't shown as many of the highlight-type defensive plays as they made during their incredible '14 run. They have made solid plays, such as first baseman Eric Hosmer's brilliant over-the-shoulder catch up the right-field line on Wednesday. But the Royals haven't taken many hits or runs away with the spectacular play, especially from those capable, like left fielder Alex Gordon, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, or third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Nothing gets the crowd or the rest of the team juiced like a sensational, breathtaking defensive play. It is time.