KC's rocking offense meets match in Estrada
TORONTO -- A rolling Royals offense was quieted on Wednesday, stopped by the dominant Marco Estrada, and the American League Championship Series continues.
Kansas City, still leading the best-of-seven set, 3-2, returns to Kauffman Stadium on Friday for Game 6 (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time slated for 8) after recording just four hits in Wednesday's 7-1 loss to Toronto at Rogers Centre -- and only one, an Alcides Escobar single through the left side, in the first seven innings, a span in which Estrada faced one over the minimum.
During that time, a group of Royals hitters who outscored their ALCS opponents, 33-16, in the first four games, with a whopping 14 runs plated in Tuesday's win, couldn't keep up with the finessing Estrada, who continually fooled them with swing-and-miss stuff to offset his lack of fastball velocity, showcasing pinpoint control throughout.
"He commanded his pitches," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "Pitched off his fastball. He's a guy you've got to get on top of, and we weren't able to do that. We hit some balls hard here and there, but he commanded the changeup really well, threw his offspeed for strikes, which made him really tough tonight."
Estrada struck out four of his first eight batters, a rarity against Kansas City, and also induced eight ground-ball outs through 7 2/3 innings of one-hit ball, including a fourth-inning double-play ball off the bat of Ben Zobrist -- who entered the game with a .389 series average -- that quickly wiped leadoff man Escobar from the bases.
With two outs in the eighth inning and the Royals trailing by six, catcher Salvador Perez got just enough of Estrada's fastball to send it over the right-field wall for his fourth homer of this postseason. But that was Estrada's lone blemish against a team that had racked up 15 hits in each of the previous two games and scored five or more runs in each of its previous six.
Alex Gordon followed Perez's long ball with a base hit, marking the end for Estrada, and Alex Rios tacked on a single off righty Aaron Sanchez before Escobar flied out to right field to end the threat.
"We don't go down easily," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We're going to give everything we've got until the last out is made, and we just couldn't really get anything going besides Salvy's homer.
"[Estrada] was executing his pitches, pretty much from the beginning. He was throwing to both sides of the plate well. He was hitting the outside part of the plate, hitting the inner half of the plate and mixing in his offspeed pitches well."
Added manager Ned Yost: "[Estrada] was absolutely dynamite. He just didn't give us anything to hit. Esky did a great job of breaking up the no-hitter, got the count to 3-2 and then finally got a pitch to drive through the hole. Outside of that, he did a great job of commanding the baseball, executing his pitches and keeping us off balance."