Before their bullpen collapsed in the eighth inning, the Astros took control Monday with a franchise-record-tying power display.
But Astros manager A.J. Hinch’s plan unraveled when Will Harris, Tony Sipp and closer Luke Gregerson couldn’t protect a four-run lead with six outs separating Houston from the American League Championship Series.
Instead, the Royals rallied for a 9-6 victory, and there will be a Game 5 on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium to decide one of the teams that will play for the AL pennant.
“Everyone that watched that game,” Hinch said, “everybody that was a part of that game knows how difficult it is to feel like that game was closing in our favor and then have it not go our way.”
The Astros took a 6-2 lead after seven innings after launching four home runs in a playoff game for the third time in club history.
Solo homers by Carlos Gomez and Carlos Correa against Yordano Ventura erased the Royals’ 2-0 lead.
In the second inning, Ventura left a 1-1 curveball up in the zone that Gomez deposited into the Crawford Boxes in left field. An inning later, Correa ripped a first-pitch fastball that bounced off an exterior wall in left above the 362-foot marker.
Correa made American League history in the seventh inning when he drove a 2-2 Ryan Madson change-up for a two-run homer into the Crawford Boxes. At 21 years and 20 days old, Correa became the youngest AL player to hit multiple homers in a postseason game. The major-league record is held by Andruw Jones, who was 19 years, 180 days old when he hit two homers for Atlanta in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series at Yankee Stadium.
Another Madson change-up, this one located a bit lower, led to back-to-back homers when Colby Rasmus homered on a 2-2 pitch to the left of the right-field foul pole.
Davis goes long
After recording a three-out save in the Royals’ Game 2 victory, Wade Davis was called into Monday’s game once the Royals took a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning.
Yost had said he would use any of his top relievers — Kelvin Herrera, Madson or Davis — in a two-inning appearance Monday. Only Davis was called on for the extra duty, and he retired six of the seven hitters he faced.
“Having Wade come out and get a six-out save gave us the best opportunity to win the game,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “And that’s exactly what we meant to do.”
Davis’ cushion increased in the ninth after Eric Hosmer’s two-run homer in the top half of the inning, but his approach didn’t despite the longer outing.
“You just go out there and try to make good pitches and let your defense handle business,” Davis said.
Monday marked Davis’ third postseason two-inning appearance. It happened twice last year, and he became the third player to notch a two-inning save for the Royals in the playoffs, joining Steve Mingori (Game 4, 1976 ALCS) and Dan Quisenberry (Game 4, 1980 World Series).
Leading off the game, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar was hit on the back of his left hand by a Lance McCullers pitch that left Escobar in obvious discomfort.
After he was looked at by the trainers, Escobar took first base. After the game, he said McCullers wasn’t trying to hit him intentionally.
“It’s good,” he said of his finger.
Ventura delivered an all-or-nothing appearance.
In 5 2/3 innings, Ventura struck out eight, falling one short of the team record for strikeouts in a playoff game set by Dennis Leonard in Game 4 of the 1978 American League Championship Series.
But Ventura also surrendered two solo home runs and left the game in the sixth with the Royals trailing 3-2.
The Royals got Ventura off the hook in the 9-6 victory. Still, statistically it was the best performance by a Royals’ starting pitcher in the series, and it marked the fourth straight game that the starter left the game with the Royals either tied or trailing.