Wade in! Rain doesn't stop Davis
KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Ned Yost was admittedly rattled. His closer was in motion, but not on the mound. Instead, Wade Davis was exerting energy on a stationary bike while a heat pack comforted his arm as rain pounded their playing ground and time ticked away, a potential American League pennant-clinching game against the Blue Jays on hold, deadlocked at 3-3 in the middle of the eighth inning.
The Royals would go on to win, 4-3, on Friday in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series and dramatically clinch their second straight trip to the World Series. But in that moment, it all seemed like it might slip away.
Davis had needed just eight pitches to record the final two outs of the eighth inning before the tarp came into sight at approximately 10:01 p.m. local time. The right-hander had been summoned ahead of schedule after Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista wreaked havoc on Yost's plans and swatted an 0-1 fastball offering from setup man Ryan Madson to left field for a game-tying home run.
Yost, who could've brought in Davis on six days' rest to begin the eighth inning to hold a 3-1 lead, was suddenly facing a potential scenario in which his closer would be unable to return at delay's end, burned for two outs and with a lead no longer in place, with fellow bullpen stalwarts Madson and Kelvin Herrera already used up.
This was the exact situation Yost so badly wanted to avoid.
"You know, we knew that the rain was coming, and they hit it right on the head," Yost said. "They said it was going to come around 9:55.
"Our plan was to hopefully get Madson through the eighth right there, because we knew the rain would probably come, and we didn't want to bring Wade in that inning unless we absolutely had to."
The delay spanned 45 minutes, "but it felt like it was four hours," said Yost, who was initially told it would last 15 minutes. Davis, to no one's surprise, stayed calm throughout, just as he would when staring down Josh Donaldson with runners on second and third and two outs in the ninth inning, a 4-3 lead tucked away in his pocket.
Davis didn't throw any warmup pitches during the delay, wanting to save every bullet he had. Instead, he engaged in a series of exercises and stretches, the specifics of which he kept to himself.
"There's a whole book out there," he said, grinning, "and I don't want to go through all of them right now."
"I kept checking with him, 'How do you feel? How do you feel?'" Yost said. "He said, 'I'm all right. I'm OK.' But you get to 45 minutes, and it gets a little nerve-wracking there."
"As long as I felt loose," Davis said, "I felt I was coming back out, especially after we scored."
After Lorenzo Cain's fleet-footed dash from first to home on Eric Hosmer's long single to right field, two batters after the game resumed, put Kansas City back on top, 4-3, Yost's decision was made. And it was stamped for approval by injured closer Greg Holland, who told Yost, "Don't worry about nothing. Wade wants to go to the World Series, he's going to be fine."
Davis, he of a regular-season 0.94 ERA, returned to the mound, encircled by a deafening crowd that temporarily fell silent when Russell Martin led off the ninth with a soft single to center field. Pinch-runner Dalton Pompey proceeded to swipe second and third base ahead of a walk to Kevin Pillar, putting runners at the corners for pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro, who struck out. After Pillar stole second, Davis fanned Ben Revere, after a questionable 2-1 strike call was awarded to Davis, who then buried a breaking ball that Revere swung over to bring Donaldson to the plate, with Toronto's season resting on the AL MVP Award front-runner's shoulders.
"There were a couple holes up in the zone when I faced him in the past, and I knew if I could get up there and get him to swing, I could get him in swing mode," Davis said. "Just try to get him to be aggressive and swing at one of my pitches."
Donaldson did, whiffing at a second pitch, sandwiched between a pair of balls that brought the count to 2-1. Davis reached back one more time, firing a fastball that Donaldson rolled over, sending a ground ball to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who completed the play with ease to send the Royals to the World Series. Davis exhaled.
"I was hoping it got hit at somebody," Davis said. "That was exactly what I was hoping he would do. I had been setting that pitch up from the beginning of the at-bat, so fortunately it was hit right at someone."
Kansas City remains undefeated when leading after six innings in the 2014 and '15 postseasons.
"Unbelievable," Moustakas said. "That's so tough to do. Wade's been phenomenal, and for him to come back and do that after a delay, unreal."