The Royals’ 14-2 dissection of Toronto on Tuesday was punctuated by the wacky appearance of Blue Jays infielder Cliff Pennington.
In a cameo role, he became the first strictly positional player ever to pitch in a major league baseball postseason game.
That was a slapstick form of surrender in a meeting in which the Royals became just the fourth team in MLB postseason history to amass 15 hits or more in back-to-back games.
With the Royals in the process of seizing a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series, maybe it seemed semi-assured that the Blue Jays were ready to go fetal and that the Royals would just extend the offensive rampage that had produced 22 runs in two games.
And then the game of baseball and its galaxy of X-factors announced itself anew on Wednesday at Rogers Centre.
Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada rapidly made the Royals’ offense vanish, allowing just one hit through seven innings.
The strike zone became a shape-shifting organism that sabotaged Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez.
And Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki, whose three-run double broke open the game like a piñata, reminded how one swing can change everything.
All of which made for a 7-1 Toronto romp that shoved back the pendulum of the series from the verge of a tidy Royals resolution to one of intrigue and concern for Kansas City fans.
On “Back To The Future Day,” the date the 1989 movie pointed to, for the Blue Jays this was like the fading McFly family picture rematerializing after the events of the “Enchantment By The Sea” dance.
Suddenly their waning chances were regenerated.
Abruptly, Game 6 on Friday at Kauffman Stadium looms about as large for the Royals as the Blue Jays, even with Kansas City holding a 3-2 lead in the series.
Then ponder the chants of Toronto fans as they left:
“We want Cueto,” they yelled, referring, of course, to volatile Royals starter Johnny Cueto, the presumptive Game 7 starter should that game prove necessary.
There’s no way to know if it will come to that distressing proposition for the Royals, who by now must be as wearied by as worried about their supposed rent-an-ace.
His unreliable performances now have been attributed to everything from Sal Perez’s glove placement to the mound height at Rogers Centre to the possibility signs were being stolen via hotel rooms in center field.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much.
Because as the ever-turning trajectory of the series in Toronto reinforced, there is absolutely no reason to think there is any carryover from one game to another — particularly in the postseason.
Toronto, you’ll remember, cut the Royals’ series lead to 2-1 on Monday with an 11-8 win that was 11-4 entering the ninth inning.
If you want to think the Royals’ four-run ninth carried over into their 14-2 win on Tuesday, feel free.
But it seems the overall evidence instead points to the inherent flux of a game that makes a mockery of the concept of momentum.
Momentum, baseball people like to say, is a game-to-game dynamic, and sometimes even pitch to pitch.
“That’s why this game is so wonderful,” Royals manager Ned Yost said Tuesday, speaking initially in terms of what he expected from Volquez on Wednesday but digressing to a broader point. “It’s not a cookie-cutter game. You don’t know what you’re going to get until you get out there.”
The Royals didn’t know what they were going to see from Estrada, who was tremendous.
They didn’t know what they’d get from Volquez, who was excellent himself until the pivotal sixth, when he was undone by a combination of lost control (walking three and hitting a man) and home plate umpire Dan Iassogna’s floating strike zone.
According to Volquez, Perez later told him that Iassogna apologized for missing a strike on the walk to Jose Bautista.
Ever gracious, Volquez said: “He’s a human being, too. Everybody makes a mistake. There’s nothing you can do (about it). You’ve got to move forward.”
Especially because the Royals were free to score runs themselves.
So there was a lost opportunity, and now the series is in peril if the Royals don’t win Friday behind Yordano Ventura, who has a 6.57 ERA this postseason.
But as with all the other game-by-game twists, Game 6 will take on its own living, breathing personality.
It will be as independent and removed from Game 5 as Game 5 was from Game 4, etc.
Home field advantage wasn’t imperative for the playoffs, as the Royals demonstrated last season.
Still, the Royals are at their best at Kauffman Stadium, they still hold a fine lead … and they know they start from scratch on Friday.
But so now do the Blue Jays, who came from down 2-0 to win the American League Division Series — and did something Wednesday the Royals need to do Friday.
“You’ve got to have a short-term memory in this game,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “You’ve got to flush it out, and when you look at the series as a whole right now … we like where we’re at.”