Eric Hosmer stood in the batter’s box in the eighth inning having failed in 15 of his 16 previous plate appearances against the Astros in the American League Division Series.
If he didn’t come through here and contribute to a rally, it’s possible that the series would have ended with the solitary single on his 2015 postseason resume, a blotch on an otherwise stellar season.
But Hosmer got not one, but two more plate appearances, driving in a total of three runs with a single in the eighth and a two-run homer in the ninth to put the finishing touches on a 9-6 Royals’ victory in Game 4.
The home run was a towering shot into the Astros’ bullpen, but that probably doesn’t happen unless Hosmer comes through in the eighth.
He stepped in against Astros reliever Tony Sipp, the lefty summoned to stop a Royals’ hitting conga line that had already reached four straight singles and produced a run.
The aim here was simplicity. Keep things rolling, get the inning to the next guy, in this case, Kendrys Morales.
“Right there, bases loaded, especially with Kendrys coming up, you’re trying to get on base for him,” Hosmer said.
Hosmer fouled off two pitches and held up on two outside the strike zone.
“Finally got one out over the plate and put a good swing on it,” he said
A line drive single to right field produced another run and made it 6-4. Hosmer got his swing back just in time.
“I’ve been getting beat by a lot of fastballs,” Hosmer said. “You get down two strikes, you miss a couple of heaters, and I’m just trying to put the ball in play.”
The inning continued until the Royals had scored five and taken a 7-6 lead.
Until the eighth, the Royals has been an offensive mystery. The power was there. When Salvador Perez belted a two-run homer in the second inning, the Royals had their sixth blast of the series. But that was about the only manner in which they were scoring. To that point, seven of the 11 runs in the series came via a home run. Perez’s shot was the first with a runner on base.
Hosmer’s home run of Josh Fields provided insurance and took some pressure off Royals’ closer Wade Davis, who pitched his second inning with a three-run advantage.
“It was critical for us to score in the ninth,” Hosmer said. “Obviously we have all the confidence in the world in Wade, but the way the Astros are playing now you knew they weren’t going to go away quietly.”
Neither was Hosmer, whose playoff bat woke up just in time.