KC makes 'keep the line moving' a way of life
NEW YORK -- After the Royals' 5-3 come-from-behind win on Saturday in Game 4 of the World Series, you can add another incredible rally to the lore that will define their 2015 postseason.
It started in Houston, in Game 4 of the American League Division Series, with the Royals down four runs and just six outs away from winter. That's when the "keep the line moving" mantra was born. Hit after hit after hit started the eighth inning, then came the critical defensive mistake -- Astros shortstop Carlos Correa booted a potential double-play ball that could have thwarted the rally.
When the dust finally cleared, the Royals had a one-run lead, and they went on to win both the game and the series.
Fast forward to Game 2 of the AL Championship Series. The Royals were down, 3-0, to the Blue Jays and their ace left-hander, David Price, who was flat-out dominating. Price had retired 18 straight hitters when the seventh inning began.
And then it happened. A miscommunication between Jays second baseman Ryan Goins and right fielder Jose Bautista let an innocent popup by Ben Zobrist drop. The line soon started moving. Hit after hit after hit. When it was over, the Royals had a two-run lead, an eventual win and a 2-0 series lead over the stunned Blue Jays, who never fully recovered.
And on Saturday the World Series may have turned for good with yet one more I-can't-believe-what-I-just-saw rally. The Royals, down 3-2, were five outs away from a 2-2 Series tie with the Mets and, most likely, a sense that the momentum of the Series had flipped. (Game 5 will be on Sunday on FOX at 8 p.m. ET.)
"But that's the thing," Eric Hosmer said. "We never think that way."
"It's a group that just won't give up," right-hander Chris Young said. "I'm not sure I've seen anything like it."
First, Zobrist walked. Then Lorenzo Cain, down 0-2 in the count, patiently drew a walk. A keep-the-line-moving rally was building. Then came the critical mistake. Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy let a routine grounder by Hosmer skip under his glove, and Zobrist scored the tying run.
Really, that was probably it, even if the Mets didn't know it at the time. The Royals, more than any team in postseason history, know how to finish off an opponent. Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez each delivered RBI hits that put the Royals up for good at 5-3, as the shocked Mets looked on in disbelief.
The Astros and Blue Jays know that look.
"It's character," manager Ned Yost said. "It's a group of really, really talented players. But a lot of it, I think, is a mind-set. We're on the biggest stage that you can play in front of, and these guys are totally confident in their abilities. They're as cool as cucumbers.
"They never panic, because they've been through it before, and they know that they're capable of doing it again. And it's just something that they believe in their heart that they can accomplish.
"And like I said, it's fun to sit there and be the manager of that group. If you handle the pitching right and keep the score here, these guys are going to find a way to come back and score some runs and win this ballgame."
They sure will. The Royals have scored 44 runs in the seventh inning or later this postseason, setting a Major League record. The previous record was 36, set by the 2002 Angels.
The Royals have seven come-from-behind rallies this postseason.
The players keep getting asked the same questions after each late-inning rally, and even they are searching for new explanations.
"It's a cliché," outfielder Alex Rios said, "but we really don't believe it's over until the final out. I've been on a lot of teams and haven't seen anything like this. It's truly amazing."
Added Hosmer: "No time to stop now."