Dominant start for Price unravels in a flash
Lefty retires 18 straight before allowing five runs
KANSAS CITY -- David Price was well on his way to one of the best postseason pitching performances the Blue Jays have ever seen. Then all of a sudden, within the span of several minutes, it all fell apart.
Toronto's No. 1 starter dominated the Royals' lineup until the seventh inning, when a popup landed between Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista in shallow right field. That set off a chain reaction of events that would see Price go on to surrender five runs on five hits in a 6-3 loss to the Royals in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Toronto trails the best-of-seven series, 0-2, with Game 3 set for Monday at Rogers Centre (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time at 8 p.m.).
Price couldn't recover after the miscue, and he now joins Randy Johnson as the only pitchers in Major League history to record seven consecutive losses as a starter in the postseason. That was a streak he seemed destined to avoid after retiring 18 consecutive batters, but his outing unraveled so fast it might have made his head spin.
"I just gave up hits at the wrong time," said a visibly frustrated Price, who is 0-7 with a 5.44 ERA in seven career postseason starts. "I felt good. That's a very scrappy team, they put the ball in play. They continue to battle and that was a tough loss."
Price allowed a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar in the first inning, but after that he was nearly untouchable until the seventh. The Cy Young Award candidate set a franchise record by retiring 18 in a row in a postseason game, and through the first six innings, Kansas City had managed to hit all of three balls into the outfield.
At the end of the sixth, Price had seven strikeouts and needed just 66 pitches to record the 18 outs. He was within striking distance of becoming the first pitcher to throw a "Maddux" (shutout on 99 pitches or fewer, an homage to Hall of Famer Greg Maddux) in the postseason since Bret Saberhagen did it in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series for the Royals against the Cardinals.
Then, just like that, his outing crumbled. Ben Zobrist began the seventh with a popup to shallow right field. Goins went back on the play and waved his arms to call off Bautista, but Toronto's second baseman thought he heard someone yell "I got it." That caused him to back off, and the ball dropped for the first hit since the first inning.
One on, nobody out with a 3-0 lead shouldn't have been that big of a deal, but Price surrendered hits to three of the next four batters. There were RBI singles from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, while Alex Gordon later came through with an RBI double.
"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. It was a big play in the game."
Kansas City's rally coincided with a third trip through the batting order. The Royals were fooled twice, but they certainly weren't fooled three times, and all three hits that followed the bloop single were hard-hit balls. It was a vintage Royals performance that didn't include any home runs but did involve spraying the ball all over the field.
Price's approach didn't change, but the results did. And now the Blue Jays find themselves heading back to Toronto trailing 2-0 in the ALCS. Kansas City is the 26th team in LCS history to take a 2-0 lead since the advent of the best-of-seven format in 1985. All but three of the previous 25 advanced to the World Series.
"They just took their hits and didn't really try to do too much," catcher Russell Martin said. "It looked like they were just playing pepper with the ball and they were able to battle. A couple really tough ABs, and they were able to get some big hits off him. Nothing really changed. It's just I think they had better at-bats in that inning."