By Gregor Chisholm and Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- These Royals just never believe they're out of it. For the second time this postseason, the defending American League champions staged a highly improbable comeback, erupting for five runs in the bottom of the seventh off Blue Jays left-hander David Price, wiping out a three-run deficit and paving the way for a 6-3 victory Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series.
The Royals lead the best-of-seven ALCS, 2-0, with Game 3 coming Monday at Rogers Centre (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time at 8 p.m.). Kansas City has won nine straight ALCS games overall, going back to the 1985 series against Toronto. The longest ALCS winning streak belongs to the Orioles, who won 10 in a row from 1969-73. The Royals are also the 26th team to take a 2-0 lead in an LCS since it moved to a best-of-seven format in 1985. Of the previous 25 teams, 22 advanced to the World Series. The only exceptions are the 2004 Yankees (vs. Red Sox), 1985 Blue Jays (vs. Royals) and '85 Dodgers (vs. Cardinals).
Price had dominated the Royals until the seventh, retiring 18 straight and allowing just one hit, a first-pitch single by Alcides Escobar to lead off the bottom of the first inning. But Kansas City ambushed Price in the seventh with five hits, including a game-tying RBI single by Mike Moustakas and the go-ahead RBI double by Alex Gordon. The rally started when Ben Zobrist lifted a single into right field. Second baseman Ryan Goins called for the ball, waving off right fielder Jose Bautista, but he was unable to make the play.
"That's what good hitters do. [Gordon's] a tough guy to face when he's in the eight-hole, because he's not an eight-hole hitter," Price said. "Before he was hurt, he was a three- or four-hole [hitter]. Sometimes you have to tip your cap, and that's just baseball."
Yordano Ventura started for the Royals and was solid through five, but he ran into trouble in the sixth, leaving the game with the bases loaded and one out, trailing 3-0. But reliever Luke Hochevar got two quick outs to keep Kansas City close.
"That was huge," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "There's two or three things that you can look at that really helped us win that game. And Hoch's contribution was one of them. They're a hit away from breaking that game open at that point, 5-0. If it's 3-0, you still feel you've got a shot to mount an attack. At 5-0, it is a little more daunting, because now you've got to score six to win.
"When Hoch came in and faced a tough hitter in [Kevin] Pillar and got Goins out, then it's like, 'OK, we're still right in the middle of this game right here. We can put together a little bit of a rally and score a couple of runs and get right back in it.'"
"Our back is against the wall, but it will be good to go back home, where we normally play well," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We'll have [Marcus Stroman] going on Monday. We feel good. It's a lot tougher from here. But we have a pretty good team, too."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The uprising: The inning was reminiscent of the Royals' five-run rally in Game 4 of the AL Division Series that extended that series against the Astros to a Game 5. Like in that game against Houston, Kansas City looked helpless early. But then an innocent popup by Zobrist against Price fell between Bautista and Goins. Then came singles by Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, and it was 3-1. An RBI groundout by Kendrys Morales made it 3-2. Then Moustakas singled to right and it was tied, and Moustakas went to second on the throw home. Gordon followed with a double to right to give the Royals a 4-3 lead, and Alex Rios finished it off with an RBI single up the middle off reliever Aaron Sanchez. More >
"You knew somewhere over the course of the game that we were going to mount some type of challenge there," Yost said. "Seriously, the first six innings was really tough to see. The glare off the backdrop made it tough. And as soon as the seventh inning came, we started to get the shadow back there. I don't know if it's coincidence or not, but that's when we started to get a nice run going."
Added Gordon: "Price is a tough pitcher. I felt like we needed to catch a break. And Zobrist's ball there I think got things going. And once this lineup gets moving, it's one guy after another, and it was a big seventh inning."
Grinding through pain:Edwin Encarnacion was considered questionable for this game after he sustained a left middle finger injury during Game 1, but he got the start for Toronto and didn't take very long to make an impact. Encarnacion singled in the second inning, but more importantly, he came through with an RBI single in the sixth that gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. Troy Tulowitzki followed later in the frame with an RBI double as Toronto staked Price to a three-run lead. More >
"The medicine that I have has helped me a lot," Encarnacion said. "I don't feel any pain today. It's not going to be easy for me. Every time I'm going to swing, I never swing easy. I swing hard and I'm going to feel it."
Started from the bottom: The Blue Jays were held scoreless through the first 11 innings of the series, but they finally broke out of their slump in the third, and it was the bottom of the order that got the job done. Pillar led off with a double, and he came around to score in the following at-bat when Goins hit an opposite-field double down the third-base line for his first career postseason RBI.
The Moose call: Moustakas had a phenomenal 2014 postseason, setting a franchise record with five homers. But this year, Moustakas was just 2-for-24 until his single in the seventh off Price tied the score. Moustakas battled Price and lifted a single just over Goins' head and into right field. Third-base coach Mike Jirschele sent Hosmer -- an aggressive send -- and Bautista's throw sailed to the backstop. Moustakas delivered another RBI hit in the eighth. More >
"I haven't been getting a lot of hits, but I've been putting together good at-bats," Moustakas said. "That keeps me going. It's nice when you're putting together quality at-bats, just not getting results. Today was nice to get that big hit and get on base for Gordo to drive me in. And later, [I] put in another good at-bat and got another knock, so it was good."
"I stuck my glove up, which is kind of the sign for, 'I got it.' I did it probably two or three times. I thought late that I heard something, and it wasn't. I didn't go at it aggressively enough. It dropped and that was it. It led to a big rally from them." -- Goins, on the popup that wasn't caught in the seventh inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Price's eight strikeouts tied for the most in any postseason game in Blue Jays history. Dave Stieb did it for Toronto in Game 1 of the 1985 ALCS vs Kansas City, and Juan Guzman matched it in Game 6 of the 1992 ALCS vs. Oakland.
The Royals challenged an out call at first base on a potential double-play ball in the first inning. With Escobar on first, Zobrist hit a grounder to third. Escobar was out at second, and Zobrist was called out on the relay to first. The call was overturned, and Zobrist was safe.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Stroman will take the mound for the Blue Jays when they continue their ALCS matchup against the Royals on Monday night. Stroman made two starts in the ALDS against the Rangers and pitched well both times, but he didn't earn a decision in either game. The right-hander has allowed five earned runs over 13 postseason innings.
Royals: Right-hander Johnny Cueto will take the hill for the Royals in Game 3. Cueto was brilliant in Game 5 of the ALDS, giving up just two hits and two runs to the Astros over eight innings. He retired the final 19 hitters he faced, the fourth-longest string in postseason history, trailing Don Larsen (27 in his perfect game with the Yankees in the 1956 World Series), Roy Halladay (21 with the Phillies in 2011) and Jose Rijo (20 with the Reds in '90).