By Jeffrey Flanagan and Brian McTaggart
HOUSTON -- The Royals pulled off a stunning comeback on Monday afternoon, charging from four runs down by scoring five times in the eighth inning to shock the Astros, 9-6, and even the best-of-five American League Division Series at two games apiece.
Minute Maid Park was rocking after Houston scored three times in the seventh to take a 6-2 lead on a two-run homer by rookie shortstop Carlos Correa -- his second of the game -- and a solo shot by Colby Rasmus. Things changed quickly.
In a comeback reminiscent of the Royals' dramatic win over the A's in last year's AL Wild Card Game, Kansas City began the eighth with four consecutive singles off reliever Will Harris, and all four scored. After Tony Sipp replaced Harris, the Royals tied the game at 6 when a grounder off the bat of Kendrys Morales skipped off the mound and glanced off the glove of Correa, allowing a pair to score, for an error. Alex Gordon's bases-loaded groundout to second base pushed the go-ahead run across.
"That was an unbelievable inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I think we ended up seeing like 53 pitches in the eighth inning. I mean, that just shows you the quality at-bats that we had, at-bat after at-bat after at-bat. So it was a great inning right there."
Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez had a simpler explanation.
"Baseball is crazy," Gomez said.
Eric Hosmer blasted a two-run homer in the ninth inning to make it 9-6, sending the Royals back to Kansas City with a ton of momentum heading into a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) at Kauffman Stadium.
"Well, the eighth clearly wasn't a good inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "They put together some good at-bats. They put, what, five or six singles in a row. Had the ground ball up the middle.
"They just never quit. They put together really good at-bats, and we couldn't get the inning to end in any way."
Royals starter Yordano Ventura worked five innings and gave up the lead when Correa hit a two-out double into the right-field corner in the fifth to score George Springer from first base and put Houston ahead, 3-2.
Correa's second homer -- a two-run shot in the seventh -- pushed the lead to 5-2, and red-hot Rasmus followed with a solo homer to right for his fourth homer in this year's postseason. The Astros tied a playoff club record with four homers.
"It's still a tied [series] and [we] have to go to their house now," Sipp said. "It's not the most ideal environment, but if we can go there and win there, it's just as sweet as if we could have got this one today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bullpen coughs it up: The Astros' bullpen, which posted the highest ERA in the AL in September, couldn't protect a four-run lead in the eighth inning. Harris, who hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in any game this year, didn't record an out in the eighth (after relieving Lance McCullers with one out in the seventh) and gave up four runs (three earned), and an unearned run off Sipp proved to be the difference. The bullpen was rocked for seven runs.
"Obviously, seven runs after the eighth is not a recipe for success for us, but, look, this group has been very good for us, and they will bounce back," Hinch said. "We have a day off tomorrow, we have Game 5, but clearly this one's a tough one."
Eighth-inning magic: This game looked a lot like last year's AL Wild Card Game, when the Royals stormed back from a 7-3 deficit with three in the eighth and one in the ninth, and eventually beat the A's, 9-8, in 12 innings. Alex Rios led off the eighth this time with a single as Kansas City trailed, 6-2. The next four hitters singled, and suddenly it was 6-4. Morales sent a hard chopper up the middle that skipped off the mound and Correa's glove for an error -- two runs scored and it was tied. Later, Gordon produced an RBI groundout to second and the Royals had a 7-6 lead.
"Yeah, I'd say that was my favorite groundout ever," Gordon said, smiling. "[Luke Gregerson] has such a tough slider, I told myself to lay off that and just wait for a fastball. I got one and put it in a good spot."
"The mindset really from the whole entire team, the whole entire offense, was just make this at-bat count," Hosmer said. "Obviously, we're pretty late in the game right there and down by four, so not one guy can get us back in this game. So we got to do whatever we can to keep the line moving.
"And if you look at everyone's at-bats that inning, even Gordo and Moose, the guy that got out that inning, it's nine, 10 pitches, fouling nasty pitches off and really just grinding."
Correa is clutch: The rookie shortstop, who's the front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, was plunked in the elbow by a pitch thrown by Ventura in the first inning, and he went on to hit two homers and an RBI double to pace Houston.
At 21 years, 20 days, Correa is youngest player in AL history with a multihomer postseason game (trailing only the Braves' Andruw Jones for the youngest overall) and is the youngest Astros player to homer in a playoff game.
Salvy gives Royals a lead: Kansas City's stagnant offense got a boost in the second inning when Salvador Perez, who had been in a minor car accident on Sunday night, belted an opposite-field homer off McCullers. The homer, Perez's second of the series, scored Mike Moustakas and gave the Royals a 2-0 lead.
Hinch got a call overturned at third base in the seventh inning, erasing the potential tying run. Pinch-runner Terrance Gore appeared to steal third base with two outs, but Hinch challenged the play, arguing Gore popped up off the bag while the tag was applied. The call was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Johnny Cueto will get the ball for a decisive Game 5 in this series on Wednesday. Cueto was the starter for Game 2 at Kauffman Stadium, allowing four runs over six innings in a no-decision as Kansas City rallied for a 5-4 victory.
Astros: Right-hander Collin McHugh will face the Royals in Wednesday's winner-take-all Game 5. McHugh started Game 1 in Kansas City, and he allowed two earned runs and four hits in six innings for his first career postseason win.