Statcast: Cain's sprint the difference for KC

Statcast: Cain's sprint the difference for KC

KANSAS CITY -- Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain knew that the secret play might be on. So he never let up.

Cain raced all the way home from first base on a long single to the right-field corner by Eric Hosmer, scoring the decisive run in the Royals' incredible 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, sending his team to the World Series against the Mets (7:30 p.m. ET air time Tuesday on FOX, game time 8 p.m.).

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"Yeah, I'm thinking home," Cain said. "Once [Hosmer] hit it, I looked out and saw [right fielder Jose] Bautista playing down the line. I thought initially I wasn't going to score, because he's playing down the line."

Examining Game 6's key 8th frame

Per Statcast™, Cain went from first to second base in 3.81 seconds, and needed only 3.34 seconds to go from second to third. He cut even more time off the final leg, going from third to home in only 3.31 seconds. In all, Cain reached a max speed of 20.7 mph during his 10.5-second dash from first to home.

Third-base coach Mike Jirschele had been waiting for just the right situation to play a hunch. He had noticed throughout the series that Bautista tended to make a slow pivot on base hits to his left and then throw somewhat softly to second, assuming that any runner going from first to third would routinely stop at third.

Game Date Matchup
Gm 1 Oct. 16 KC 5, TOR 0
Gm 2 Oct. 17 KC 6, TOR 3
Gm 3 Oct. 19 TOR 11, KC 8
Gm 4 Oct. 20 KC 14, TOR 2
Gm 5 Oct. 21 TOR 7, KC 1
Gm 6 Oct. 23 KC 4, TOR 3

"All I needed was the right runner on first," said Jirschele, who held Alex Gordon at third base in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series last season, "and I knew I could send him. I knew it would work."

Cain was that "right runner" Jirschele needed. Cain took off for second and kept racing toward third as Bautista fielded Hosmer's hit, pivoted and threw to second.

Jirschele had his moment: He furiously waved Cain home, and Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki didn't get a clean handle on Bautista's throw. Tulowitzki seemed to take a peek at the wide turn at first by Hosmer as well.

Cain on Royals winning ALCS

Cain raced home, and Tulowitzki's throw to the plate was both offline and late. Kansas City stole the run and secured its spot in the World Series.

"Jirsch had told us to keep an eye out for that play," Hosmer said. "Sure enough, it happened."

Cain never slowed up as he barreled toward third base.

"Jirsch had just talked to us about that," Cain said. "That's why I didn't let up. Then I saw him waving me in. We made the play. That was huge."

Cain on scoring the winning run

Bautista seemed surprised that the Royals could score in that situation, but he tipped his hat to Jirschele.

"I felt like I cut it off quick enough to where if I threw to second, I would prevent him from going to second and Cain from scoring, but obviously, I was wrong," Bautista said. "[Cain] did a great job running, hustling the whole way and not slowing down, and their third-base coach did a great job making the decision to send him."

Did Bautista think at any time that Cain could score all the way from first?

Cain flies home from first

"It goes through your mind. That's one of the scenarios you go through before the play happens," he said. "But at the same time, if I throw the ball home, the situation is probably [having runners at] second and third with no outs.

"It's not a guaranteed run like it was because I threw to second, but they were in a pretty good position to score at least once. It's one of those tough ones. Now I wish I would have thrown the ball home, obviously, but God knows what would have happened if I had done that anyway."

Toronto catcher Russell Martin believes Kansas City was fortunate.

"It was a dangerous play on [Cain's] part," Martin said. "He was lucky that Tulo didn't get a good grip on the baseball. I think if he gets a clean exchange, he's going to be out by quite a bit."

Jirschele disagrees.

Royals on Cain's hustle

"We've done that play in the past," Jirschele said. "I knew the minute [Bautista] turned toward second, we were good. There's no way the shortstop can really get the throw and make a clean throw to home. It has to be absolutely perfect, especially if you have a fast runner. I've seen it work too many times."

And now, maybe this offseason, the Royals' fan base will salute their third-base coach instead of debating one of his decisions.

"I will always maintain I made the right call last year," Jirschele said, smiling, "but hey, it's great to have this one go our way and win a ballgame."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.