The Royals’ dramatic comeback in the Game 4 triumph over the Houston Astros conjured memories of the improbable 2014 Wild Card Game conquest.
There looms another parallel to the previous year’s postseason run ... with chilling potential for the Royals. Dallas Keuchel, the Astros’ dominant left-handed starter, could see mound time in relief on short rest.
Just as Madison Bumgarner did in Game 7 of the World Series at Kauffman Stadium, and pitched the Giants to the championship.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch addressed the prospect of a Keuchel appearance on two day’s rest — the same as Bumgarner — three times in his 15-minute news conference before the Astros’ workout at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday.
Three times he deflected the query.
“It’s great to think about what-ifs and possibilities, I’m just not going to go there,” Hinch said. “I’m going to have all hands on deck. We know it’s a win or go home. It’s win or go home for them, too.”
As it was for the Giants and Royals last October. Bumgarner had dominated the Royals in the first and fifth games and everybody was available for the finale. But few envisioned Bumgarner tossing 70 pitches over the final five innings to preserve the 3-2 victory.
So, maybe they’ll use Keuchel, who surrendered one run and five hits to the Royals in his Game 3 start and victory on Sunday. Or maybe not. To Hinch, the best reason not to use the possible American League Cy Young winner who went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA is the quality of Wednesday’s starter.
Collin McHugh opened the series with a solid six-inning effort in the Astros’ 4-2 victory, and his teammates expect a similar effort in Game 5.
“He’s that tough of a pitcher and I know he wants it,” left fielder Colby Rasmus said. “He’s going to be ready. He’s been putting us in positions to win ball games all year.”
That happened in the series opener, when only Kendrys Morales, with a pair of solo home runs, had good swings against McHugh.
“My plan is go nine,” McHugh said. “If I don’t get to go nine, we’ll see who comes in behind me.”
That’s an issue for the Astros. The Royals’ comeback on Monday was constructed against a bullpen that melted down.
Four singles against Will Harris produced one run. A base hit against Tony Sipp brought in another. Luke Gregerson walked two and Josh Fields allowed Eric Hosmer’s two-run homer in the ninth.
Houston’s bullpen also coughed up a lead in the Royals’ Game 2 triumph, although not quite as dramatically.
Hinch said Scott Kazmir, the Game 2 starter, will join the relievers in the pen to start the game, but Hinch continues to have faith in his regulars.
“I would expect our guys to be able mentally to get back into it,” Hinch said. “Look, if you can’t show up with all hands on deck, feeling good, being as confident as you can be and wanting the ball, it’s hard to compete as this level.”
Does all hands on deck include Keuchel?
“Whether or not Keuchel’s available or what the plan is,” Hinch said, “we’ll have to tune in and find out.”