Can of corn? Fly ball that fell keys Royals' rally
Seventh-inning blunder by Goins leads to unraveling of Price's gem
KANSAS CITY -- When Ben Zobrist's seemingly harmless fly ball somehow fell in to start the seventh inning on Saturday, center fielder Lorenzo Cain thought, "We've got a shot." When Cain followed with a clean single, Eric Hosmer started to think, "We've definitely got something going here." Five batters later, the most impressive start of David Price's postseason career had quickly morphed into the Royals' latest triumph, a 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
Afterwards, Toronto second baseman Ryan Goins -- the man who misplayed the Zobrist fly ball that ignited Kansas City's furious five-run rally -- felt "the blame should go on me today."
"I gave them that play to start that rally," Goins said after his team fell into an 0-2 hole in the ALCS. "That's a big play."
But it wasn't the only one. There were also five clean hits over a span of seven batters, highlighted by a two-out, go-ahead RBI double by the face of the Royals' franchise, Alex Gordon. There was an attempted stolen base by Hosmer that avoided a double play. There was Price coming unglued after a dominant first six innings.
There was this Royals team that continues to capitalize on mistakes and refuses to die.
"Our guys, they never quit," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "They keep going."
Yost saw the frustration in Yordano Ventura's face as he approached the mound to lift his starting pitcher with one out in the sixth inning. Toronto had just tacked on two additional runs to take a 3-0 lead, so Yost reassured him as he took the ball.
"Look," Yost told Ventura, "we're going to get you off the hook here."
Price was rolling at that point. When he finished the sixth, the Blue Jays' ace had retired 18 consecutive batters -- every one of them after Alcides Escobar's first-pitch single -- and he required only 66 pitches to get into the seventh.
Then Zobrist began the seventh with his game-changing fly ball. Goins lifted his glove straight into the air, baseball code for, "I got it," so right fielder Jose Bautista jogged in slowly. Just before he settled under the ball, Goins pulled up and looked back at Bautista. The ball fell to the ground.
"It's a play that I've made a hundred times this season," Goins said. "I just lost track of where I was on the field. I thought I heard something I didn't, and I backed off the ball. I should've been more aggressive."
Instead, the Royals had the leadoff man aboard. Cain followed with a single to right, which could've been an out if Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello didn't have to cover the bag. Hosmer then hit an RBI single up the middle and was told to steal second base -- against a pitcher who hadn't allowed a stolen base all season.
"I saw [former Royals designated hitter] Billy Butler steal a base last year in the postseason," Hosmer said with a laugh. "I wasn't surprised at all."
Hosmer's delayed steal coincided with Kendrys Morales' run-scoring grounder and bought Kansas City another out. Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki fielded the ground ball cleanly near second base, but Hosmer's early break gave him no shot at a double play.
"Not even close," Tulowitzki said.
"The key to that whole inning, believe it or not, was Hosmer stealing second base," Yost added. "That was a double-play ball."
Mike Moustakas -- 2-for-18 in the AL Division Series -- followed with another RBI single to right field. Price came back to strike out Salvador Perez on a full-count cutter on the edge of the plate, but then he grooved a 3-2 fastball to Gordon -- who had managed only 15 hits over his previous 78 at-bats.
"I would like to have the Gordon pitch back," Price said. "That was a two-seamer that I ran back down the middle. That's what good hitters do."
Price departed thereafter, retreating slowly to the dugout and watching Aaron Sanchez give up an ensuing RBI single to Alex Rios. It marked the fifth earned run charged to Price, now winless in seven postseason starts and carrying a 5.24 ERA when it matters most.
Later, Price was asked about his frustrations over pitching so well through the first six innings and struggling so much in the seventh.
"I don't think I struggled," Price said. "It's frustrating, but I didn't struggle."
Sanchez began to warm up as soon as the second batter of the inning, Cain, reached base. Presumably, the hard-throwing right-hander was going to come in to face the right-handed-hitting Perez. But Blue Jays manager John Gibbons stuck with his lefty starter because Gordon, a left-handed hitter, followed in the lineup.
Gibbons left Price in one hitter too long, at least.
"It was unfortunate," Gibbons said. "You really can't pitch a better game -- to that point, anyway. He did a hell of a job. Sometimes there's that one little crack."
That "little crack" was on Goins. The noise in Kansas City was deafening, as usual, with 40,357 fans stuffing "The K."
"I thought I heard, 'I got it,'" Goins said. "It was nothing."
Bautista was asked about the sequence.
"There was no confusion," he said. "I don't know what you're talking about."
There wasn't much else to say. The Blue Jays provided an opportunity, and the Royals made it memorable.
Said Moustakas: "We just needed to catch a break."