KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals kept waiting for Blue Jays ace David Price to give them some hope.
It turned out to be Toronto’s leaky defense that provided it.
After managing one hit over six innings, Ben Zobrist’s easy fly that somehow fell for a hit began a five-run rally against Price in the seventh inning Saturday. The Royals rolled the rest of the way to a 6-3 victory over Toronto and a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series.
“We needed to catch a break,” the Royals’ Alex Gordon said, “and Zobrist’s ball was it.”
Luke Hochevar wiggled out of a jam to keep Kansas City in the game, and Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera got the ball to closer Wade Davis, who had to survive a shaky ninth to preserve the win.
Davis gave up a leadoff single and walked pinch-hitter Cliff Pennington, but bounced back to strike out leadoff man Ben Revere and MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. Jose Bautista then flied out to right to give Davis his third postseason save and the Royals another postseason comeback win.
“Our guys never quit,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “They keep going.”
Even though they looked foolish flailing at Price’s pitches — until the lazy fly ball by Zobrist changed everything. They proceeded to string together four singles and a double in their go-ahead inning, getting run-producing hits from Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Rios, along with an RBI groundout from Kendrys Morales.
It was a monumental collapse for Price, who had at one point recorded 18 straight outs. He fell to 0-7 in seven postseason starts, including a loss to Texas in their AL Division Series.
“I gave up hits at the wrong time,” he said. “I felt good. It’s a very scrappy team. They put the ball in play. They continued to battle. It’s just a tough loss.”
Meanwhile, the reigning AL champs have won nine straight ALCS games dating to their memorable seven-game series against Toronto in 1985 — the year they won their only World Series. The record is 10 straight wins set by Baltimore in the 1960s and ’70s.
Now, the Blue Jays head home for Game 3 on Monday night in dire trouble. All but three of the previous 25 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven era have won the series — though Toronto did rally from the same hole to beat the Rangers in five games in the division round.
“We’ve been here before,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said, “but it’s not a place we want to be.”
For most of the afternoon, it appeared the Blue Jays would forge a 1-1 tie.
Ryan Goins drove in a run off Ventura in the third, snapping an 18-inning scoreless streak by Royals pitchers. Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki added to the lead in the sixth.
The way Price was carving up the lineup, a 3-0 advantage looked to be enough.
The only bad pitch he threw the first six innings was his first, which Alcides Escobar swatted for a leadoff single. Price threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of 14 batters at one point, and struck out the side in the sixth inning, giving no indication he was about to implode.
“We just needed to catch a break,” Moustakas said. “Price was throwing the ball unbelievable. We got the early hit and he was kind of cruising. We just needed to find a way to get a runner on base so we could do what we can, keep the line moving.”
The mistake came when Zobrist sent a popup to shallow right field to start the seventh, and Goins gave chase from second base and Bautista from right field. Both wound up letting it drop for a single, and for the first time all game, a sellout crowd at Kauffman Stadium began to stir.
“I put my glove up and pretty much was saying, ‘I’m going to make this play,’ and then I didn’t make the play,” Goins said, “so it’s on me.”
Lorenzo Cain followed with a clean single to extend his postseason hit streak to 11 games, matching a franchise record. Hosmer’s single got the Royals on the board, and Morales added an RBI groundout up the middle, before Moustakas came up. In a 2-for-25 slump and without an RBI this postseason, he pulled a tying double to right field to set the crowd of 40,357 into a frenzy.
Gordon’s double gave Kansas City the lead. Rios added another single off reliever Aaron Sanchez to close the book on Price, who was dinged for all five runs in one disastrous inning.
The last time he allowed five runs in an inning was May 8. The opponent: Kansas City.
The Royals tacked on another run off the Toronto relief corps in the eighth, but it was hardly necessary. Kansas City’s own shutdown bullpen made certain the lead would stand up.
“You got to get a win under your belt,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It won’t be easy, no doubt about that. But you get one win out of the way it can turn things around in a hurry.”