By Gregor Chisholm and Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- Just as the Royals have been saying all season, last year was no fluke.
While few prognosticators even picked them to win the American League Central, the Royals advanced to their second straight World Series for the first time in franchise history with a pulsating 4-3 win over the Blue Jays in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Lorenzo Cain scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, scoring all the way from first on Eric Hosmer's single down the right-field line. When right fielder Jose Bautista's throw went to second base, Cain, who was tracked by Statcast™ at 20.694 mph, was sent home by third-base coach Mike Jirschele, and Cain easily beat shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's relay throw home. Cain went from first to home in 10.469 seconds.
The Royals move on to face the Mets in Game 1 of the World Series, set for Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, with game time slated for 8 p.m.).
"This year, from the first day at Spring Training, we expected to be here," Royals manager Ned Yost said on the podium on the field during the postgame presentation of the William Harridge Trophy, for winning the AL.
"Our players, they had such a great season, they would never quit, they continued to battle, even when the chips were down a little bit. And it enabled me to put on this new hat here today that has World Series on it, and I'll see you guys on Tuesday."
Kansas City struck early on solo homers from Ben Zobrist (first inning) and Mike Moustakas (second), and after Yordano Ventura turned a 2-1 lead over to the bullpen after a solid 5 1/3 innings, Alex Rios made it 3-1 with an RBI single in the seventh.
Kelvin Herrera followed Ventura and retired all five batters he faced. But then Ryan Madson gave up a one-out, two-run bomb to Bautista that made it 3-3 in the eighth before Wade Davis came on to get the final two outs of the frame.
At that point, rain had begun falling heavily and the game was delayed for 45 minutes. The Royals wasted no time once play resumed, with Cain giving them a lead before an out was recorded. A Blue Jays double play kept it a 4-3 game heading to the ninth, and Davis returned to the mound despite sitting for over an hour. He allowed a leadoff single and a walk, but struck out Dioner Navarro and Ben Revere before Josh Donaldson's groundout with runners on second and third gave Kansas City the AL pennant.
"I knew we would, as far as fighting to the end, because that's what we do. That's who these guys are," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We were sitting in that position, we just couldn't get it done. Wade Davis stepped up, like he's done the last few years."
David Price started for Toronto and was solid, throwing 6 2/3 innings and giving up just three runs.
"He stepped up tonight, he really did," Gibbons said of Price. "A couple solo home runs early, and he's really as good as we've seen him. He kept us right there, gave us a shot. Jose had a huge night, too."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Delay doesn't stop Royals: Following a 45-minute rain delay, the Royals wasted no time getting to Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna. Cain led off with a walk and then scored all the way from first on what turned out to be a long single by Hosmer. The single went to the corner in right and Bautista came up throwing to second, which allowed Cain to keep running. Hosmer stopped between first and second, but Cain easily scored on the delayed relay throw home. It was a disappointing end to the postseason for Osuna, who had allowed just one run over 7 1/3 innings prior to Game 6.
"It worked because Hoz made a big turn coming around first base. It worked because Lorenzo Cain never slowed down," Yost said. "He didn't just take for granted that he was going to third base. And Jirschele knew that in those situations Bautista comes up and fires to second base, and he was waving him all along. It was a huge send by Jirsch."
Bautista bombs: Bautista rose to the occasion during the AL Division Series against the Rangers, and he did it again in the ALCS. Toronto was trailing, 3-1, in the eighth inning and down to its final five outs when Bautista unloaded on an 0-1 fastball from Madson. The two-run shot to left tied the game and gave the Blue Jays new life. It was Bautista's second home run of the game, as he also homered off Ventura in the fourth inning.
"I was just trying to make something positive happen when I came up to the plate," Bautista said. "I was able to come through twice. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Sour loss, but we had enough opportunities to do more, and we didn't. They deserved the win."
Zobrist, Moose get it started: Zobrist smacked his second homer of this postseason in the bottom of the first off Price. With one out, Zobrist jumped on a fastball up in the zone and yanked it into the left-field corner, just over the fence. That got the crowd jump-started and put Kansas City up, 1-0.
Moustakas had five postseason homers a season ago, setting a franchise record. He finally got No. 1 of the 2015 postseason in the second inning, a rocket over the right-field fence that had an exit velocity of 109.2 mph, according to Statcast™, his hardest-hit homer of the season. The ball was caught by a fan near the guard rail in the right-field bleachers, leading to a crew-chief review to determine whether fan interference applied. But the call was allowed to stand and the Royals had an early 2-0 lead.
"Every hit that he's gotten in these playoffs has been a huge hit," Yost said of Moustakas. "He hasn't got a lot of them, but every hit that he's gotten has been a huge hit. And tonight I expected him to kind of do something special tonight, and he did."
Troubles with the RISP: The Blue Jays struggled early with the bats, but they had a perfect opportunity for a big inning in the fifth, when Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar led off with a pair of walks. Goins then took a called strike on the first pitch of his at-bat, bunted foul on the second and eventually flied out to center. Revere followed with a flyout of his own and then Donaldson smacked a line drive to the left side of the infield that was snared by diving third baseman Moustakas. The ball left Donaldson's bat at 114 mph, according to Statcast™, but it was all for naught, as Toronto stranded both runners. It was a trend that continued all night for the Blue Jays, as they finished 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base.
"You know what, every once in a while you've got to give credit to the other side," Gibbons said. "They got to this round like us because they have great pitching. When they turn over the bullpen, you saw what you saw tonight."
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Bautista became the sixth player in Major League history to hit multiple homers in a potential ALCS elimination game. He also became the first player in Blue Jays history to hit multiple home runs in a postseason game.
"Unreal performance by Jose," Martin said. "He's definitely that type of player who loves being in that moment. He loves the big situations, and we've seen him do it before, and again today. He did everything he could in his power to try to win. Unfortunately, we just fell short."
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Kansas City will likely to go with Edinson Volquez for Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, with New York turning to either Jacob deGrom or Matt Harvey. The Royals have the home-field advantage by virtue of the AL's 6-3 win in the All-Star Game, meaning Kansas City will host Games 1 and 2 and a potential 6 and 7.
Gregor Chisholm and Jeffrey Flanagan are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.