Six outs from ALCS, 'pen gives up lead

With four-run lead in 8th, relievers struggle vs. Royals

Six outs from ALCS, 'pen gives up lead

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch gave the ball to the same relievers he's relied on all season in tough situations, but he could only watch helplessly as things unraveled quickly in a disastrous eighth inning that has his team on the brink of elimination.

Called upon to protect a four-run lead in the eighth, Houston's bullpen was rocked for seven runs over the final two innings Monday afternoon to allow Kansas City to steal a 9-6 win in Game 4 to even the best-of-five American League Division Series at two games apiece.

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Game Date Result
Gm 1 Oct. 8 HOU 5, KC 2
Gm 2 Oct. 9 KC 5, HOU 4
Gm 3 Oct. 11 HOU 4, KC 2
Gm 4 Oct. 12 KC 9, HOU 6
Gm 5 Oct. 14 KC 7, HOU 2

Will Harris, who got the final out in the seventh inning, gave up four consecutive singles to start the eighth, and all four runners scored to tie the game. It was lefty Tony Sipp who suffered the loss, though, after allowing a fifth consecutive single in the inning to Eric Hosmer, who scored the go-ahead run to cap the five-run eighth. Hosmer added a two-run homer in the ninth off Josh Fields.

"They put together a couple of good hits, and things just didn't go our way that inning," Sipp said. "Everything was looking like it was going our way. Things kind of unraveled there at the end. It was a close ballgame, a game of inches. A couple of inches either way, I think, it makes a difference in that game."

Sipp was lamenting the ball Kendrys Morales hit up the middle that scored two to allow the Royals to tie the game at 6. The ball skipped off Sipp's glove and then bounced off the mound, before going off the glove of shortstop Carlos Correa, who was charging to start a double play.

"It looked like a tailor-made double play, but I think I'm pretty sure the spin of the ball kind of messed it up," Sipp said. "I just wish things could have been a little different. It's a game of inches, but we can't hang our heads down. It's still a tied [series] and [we] have to go to their house now. 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."

Royals tie game in 8th on error

Kansas City manager Ned Yost lauded his team for not quitting.

"That was an unbelievable inning," Yost said. "I think we ended up seeing 53 pitches in the eighth inning. I mean, that just shows you the quality at-bats we had, at-bat after at-bat. So it was a great inning right there."

Hosmer said the Royals' approach in the eighth was to simply keep the line moving.

"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," Hosmer said. "So we've got to do whatever we can to keep the line moving."

Hinch said he wouldn't have done anything differently as far as which relievers he put into the game. He said he used his three best relievers -- Harris, Sipp and Luke Gregerson -- and it's the same combo he's relied upon the past two weeks late in games.

"There were really no tough calls for me," Hinch said. "We got to the pocket with Hosmer, where I wanted to use Sipp, and then Luke obviously coming in with [Drew] Butera. So the way it mapped out was fine. I take my chances with six outs left with Harris, Sipp and Gregerson. It just didn't work out today."

Harris hadn't given up more than two earned runs in any game this season. Three of the four runs he allowed in the eighth Monday were earned. The Royals, with a simple approach of not trying to do too much, jumped all over Harris, with Alex Rios, Alcides Escobar, Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain hitting singles.

"I don't feel good about it," Harris said. "I've had my fair share of losses this year, and this is definitely the worst one so far. I've got a lot of teammates in here that are going to pick me and play hard on Wednesday."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.