His phone was lit up with text messages, a couple dozen or so, some from family members who just wanted to vent. When Terrance Gore returned to the Royals clubhouse on Monday evening, he did not head to the video room or pull up the play on his phone. He instead just scrolled through the messages.
“I got a lot of texts from my family,” Gore said, standing in front of his locker at Minute Maid Park. “Like: ‘He tagged you with his wrist.’ ”
Before the impossible, before the Royals came back from the dead in a 9-6 victory over the Astros, the most vexing moment of Game 4 of the American League Division Series came in the top of the seventh, when Gore was called out at third after a stolen base begat a replay challenge. The setup: With two outs, the Royals trailing 3-2, and Gore having already swiped second, the dynamic specialist tore off for third with Alex Rios as the plate. The throw was late, and Gore beat the tag from Luis Valbuena, who appeared to block the base with his leg.
The initial call was safe, but moments later, Astros manager A.J. Hinch emerged from the dugout and issued a challenge. The scene caught Gore by surprise.
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“Honestly,” he said, “when they reviewed the play, I was like: ‘Why are they even reviewing it?’ ”
Hinch, though, had questions: Did Gore pop off the base — and did Valbuena apply a tag while he wasn’t touching the third-base bag. As the umpired convened for the review, the answer to the former appeared to be yes — Gore’s momentum caused him to momentarily pop off the bag — but the answer to the latter was more hazy. Replays appeared inconclusive, and as Gore would later learn from his texts, it appeared Valbuena may have applied the tag with the back of his wrist.
In a room in New York, a replay official “definitely” determined that Valbuena tagged Gore while he lost contact with the base. The play had massive ramifications — for a half-inning at least.
“I guess I came off,” said Gore, who had pinch-run for catcher Salvador Perez with one out in the inning. “I probably won’t look at it. The call was final. I can’t do anything about it.”
Gore said he did not believe that Valbuena used his shoulder to shove him off the base. When a reporter said one replay appeared to show that, Gore shrugged.
“Did he?” Gore answered. “If he did, he did. He did a great job of it. I didn’t feel a shove. I know I kind of spiked him a little bit. I felt bad for that.”
For Gore, it was his first time caught stealing in his major-league career. Before Monday, he was a perfect eight-for-eight in the regular season and three for three last postseason. And for nearly 15 minutes, the call hung as a defining moment as the Royals seemed barreling toward the offseason. But then the Astros piled on three runs in the bottom of the seventh, making the call somewhat moot, and setting the tables for the miraculous events of the eighth.
“You got so much momentum going,” teammate Jarrod Dyson said. “It’s tough to just stop. It’s just like brakes in a car. If you’re going 100 (miles per hour), you’re not just going to stop on a dime. That’s the thing with us. We try to gear up to get the bag.
Dyson has talked with Gore about starting his slides earlier, he said. Gore said he’ll be ready to do his job the next time he is called upon. But in the moments after the game, he remained unfazed by the call, which was a mere afterthought in a victorious clubhouse.
“It happens,” Dyson said. “Base-runners get picked off sometime. (Stuff) happens. But you try to limit the mistakes.”