Royals

Royals beat Blue Jays 4-3, win back-to-back American League pennants

Kansas City Royals players celebrate after winning the ALCS championship by defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 on Friday, October 23, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals players celebrate after winning the ALCS championship by defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 on Friday, October 23, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. along@kcstar.com

Wade Davis cradled his daughter in his arms as he crossed paths with the man who brought him to Kansas City. All around Kauffman Stadium, men and women shared joy and disbelief. As the American League Championship Trophy passed from Royal to Royal, Dayton Moore reached up and hugged the pitcher who secured the final outs in the victory that sent this team back to the World Series.

"Oh my gosh," Moore told Davis. "I’ve never seen anything like that in my life."

The backbone of the Royals — softened by the rain, wrenched into misalignment by manager Ned Yost, stressed to the hilt by the Toronto Blue Jays — approached his breaking point in the final moments of a 4-3 victory in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. He stood on the mound with the tying run at third, the go-ahead run at second and the threshers of baseball’s most ferocious lineup opening their jaws for him.

The Royals celebrated and sprayed champagne in their clubhouse Friday at Kauffman Stadium after beating the Blue Jays 4-3 in Game 6 of the ALCS, clinching their second American League pennant in as many years.

Davis reacted as he has so often during his past two seasons in Kansas City’s bullpen. He became an elite reliever in 2014. He earned an All-Star bid in 2015 and replaced the injured Greg Holland as the team’s closer. In the ninth inning on Friday, after idling for a 45-minute rain delay, Davis declined to blink.

To capture another pennant, the Royals displayed the wealth of their talent and the depth of their resolve. The team manufactured the winning run on a combination of daring speed and scouting acumen. The players overcame a strategic misstep by Yost. And at the end of the line stood their finest pitcher, the arm who accompanied James Shields in a franchise-altering trade before 2013, the man creating a legacy that may eclipse that of his former teammate.

Davis was protecting a one-run lead created by Eric Hosmer’s RBI single, Lorenzo Cain’s world-class speed and the advance reconnaissance of third-base coach Mike Jirschele. As two runners bounced on the bases, Davis struck out two batters in a row. For the finale he squared off with Josh Donaldson, the likely American League MVP, and induced a soft groundball to third base.

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The pennant belonged to Kansas City and the Royals stormed the field. Salvador Perez lifted Davis off the ground. A mob of teammates engulfed them both, and a flood of friends and relatives followed minutes later. That’s where Moore found Davis.

"On this stage? What you did?" Moore said. "Unbelievable."

The victory means the Royals will host Game 1 of the 111th World Series on Tuesday night against the New York Mets. The Mets are in search of their first championship since 1986. The Royals, of course, have not captured a title since 1985, and finished Game 7 last season with the tying run stranded at third base.

When he spoke to the crowd after the game, owner David Glass reminded the fans about the goal his team set in spring training. "Let’s go finish what we didn’t finish last year," Glass said.

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To return to the Fall Classic, Kansas City encountered two rounds of hard road. The Astros pushed them to the five-game limit in the first round. The Blue Jays survived an elimination game on Wednesday and silenced Kauffman Stadium in Friday’s eighth inning when Jose Bautista lashed a two-run shot, his second of the night, tying the score.

The play of Bautista scuttled the plans of the Royals, who intended to follow their usual in-game script, instead of adjusting on the fly. The eighth inning was a catastrophe wrought by inclement weather and ill-advised bullpen usage. Holding a two-run lead heading into the eighth, Yost chose Ryan Madson to pitch instead of sending in Davis for a six-out save.

Yost did so despite a sizable layoff for Davis, who had pitched only once in this series. Yost did so despite Madson’s pitiable history against the Blue Jays, who hit .600 against him in four regular-season games this year. Yost did so even though Davis already recorded one six-out save this postseason, in Game 4 against Houston, and even though a victory allowed for three days off until the World Series.

"Madson has been so good for us all year long," Yost said.

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Two pitches into his outing, Davis started to warm up, creating a surreal split-screen that heightened the madness of the inning. Madson gave up an infield single to outfielder Ben Revere. He struck out Donaldson. But facing Bautista, Madson threw a 96-mph fastball at the letters.

"All the naysayers can say ‘We should have done this,’ or ‘We should have done that,’" pitching coach Dave Eiland said. "But he didn’t execute a pitch. He missed his spot by about 17 inches."

As Davis threw to the bullpen catcher, the baseball soared in his direction. The sight shocked the crowd, packed to capacity and prepared to celebrate the pennant. After a walk to Edwin Encarnacion, Yost pulled Madson and sent in Davis, who promptly retired the next two batters.

At this point, the rain intervened. Davis waited in the clubhouse along with his teammates.

The road to the eighth inning had been far less eventful. Ben Zobrist and Mike Moustakas each smacked home runs off Toronto ace David Price in the first two innings. Bautista countered with a solo shot off Yordano Ventura. Alex Rios continued his torrid postseason with an RBI single in the seventh.

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Now the game  was tied, and the Royals trusted Davis with its outcome. Davis woke up on Friday morning feeling sick, dealing with dizziness and a sore throat. He popped some Claritin and reported to work. While the rain fell, Davis declined to throw off a mound.

Davis affixed a heating pad to his arm. He pedaled on a stationary bike. Eiland kept a stopwatch, monitoring the minutes as the delay continued. Davis insisted he felt ready to pitch. Yost also worried about the length of the layoff. Holland told him not to fret.

"Don’t worry about nothing," Holland told Yost. "Wade wants to go to the World Series. He’s going to be fine."

But first, Kansas City required a run. Toronto shuttled rookie closer Roberto Osuna into the bottom of the eighth. Cain responded with an eight-pitch walk to lead off. Next Hosmer hooked a slider into the right-field corner. Bautista fielded the ball, and Jirschele spotted an opportunity.

All series, Jirschele noticed that Bautista would make a lax throw to second base on plays like this. Jirschele earned infamy among certain fans for his refusal to send Alex Gordon in Game 7 of the World Series last year. Now he transformed his arm into a windmill, ordering Cain homeward.

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"He just lives and dies and breathes for that one play," first-base coach Rusty Kuntz said. "And he got a shot at it. And it put us in the World Series."

The throw from Bautista reached second base and Cain barreled across the plate. After the game, as Jirschele conducted an interview on the field, Moore swallowed him in a bear hug.

"You’ve got instincts, Jirsch," Moore said. "You’ve got instincts."

"I told you I was going to get him," Jirschele said.

Now all the Royals required were three outs. They would not come easily. Russell Martin ambushed Davis and flared a single. Inserted as a pinch-runner, Dalton Pompey swiped second base. Davis shifted his focus between holding Pompey at second and facing outfielder Kevin Pillar.

"I was just hoping that he wouldn’t bunt the ball and get him over," Davis said. "He ended up stealing third, which was even worse."

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Pillar ended up walking. Davis struck out pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro, but allowed Pillar to steal second. The lineup rolled over. Bautista loomed three batters away. Two outs would seal the victory.

Davis benefited from a generous 2-1 strike call by umpire Jeff Nelson against outfielder Ben Revere. He iced Revere with a curveball at the knees.

The pennant hung in the balance of the next at-bat. Here came Donaldson. Davis insisted he was focused on pinpointing the holes in Donaldson’s swing.

"I just wish I had half the talent of him," fellow pitcher Chris Young said. "Because he just makes it look easy. And I know it’s not."

Davis stayed away from the inner half of the plate. He pumped four fastballs. Donaldson rolled a grounder toward Moustakas. The celebration started soon after.

Inside the clubhouse, the Royals completed their customary celebration with Budweiser and bubbly. The party connected generations. George Brett reached over a clutch of reporters to slap hands with Hosmer. Perez screamed "Amigo!" at a cameraman and embraced the fellow in a hug. Cain fluttered across the room, shouting the hook to Cash Out’s "She Twerkin."

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Davis sloshed through the room with shower slides covering his feet. A pair of Bolle ski goggles adorned his head. Glass found him near the exit. The owner spoke for his organization.

"I was nervous," Glass told Davis. "Until I figured out you weren’t."

Andy McCullough: 816-234-4730, rmccullough@kcstar.com , @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

American League Championship Series Game 6

Royals 4, Blue Jays 3

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Toronto

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Revere lf

5

1

2

0

0

2

.208

Donaldson 3b

5

0

0

0

0

2

.261

Bautista rf

4

2

2

3

0

0

.316

Encarnacion dh

3

0

1

0

1

0

.227

Colabello 1b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.217

Tulowitzki ss

4

0

0

0

0

2

.304

Ru.Martin c

3

0

1

0

1

1

.091

3-Pompey pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

1.000

Pillar cf

2

0

0

0

2

0

.238

Goins 2b

3

0

0

0

0

2

.263

a-D.Navarro ph

1

0

0

0

0

1

.000

Totals

34

3

7

3

4

11

 

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

A.Escobar ss

4

0

1

0

0

1

.478

Zobrist 2b

3

1

1

1

1

0

.320

L.Cain cf

3

1

1

0

1

0

.300

Hosmer 1b

4

0

1

1

0

1

.250

K.Morales dh

4

0

1

0

0

1

.273

2-Gore pr-dh

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Moustakas 3b

4

2

2

1

0

1

.208

S.Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

2

.136

A.Gordon lf

3

0

0

0

0

2

.263

Rios rf

3

0

2

1

0

0

.368

1-Orlando pr-rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

1.000

Totals

32

4

9

4

2

8

 

TableStyle: SP-basebyinningsCCI Template: SP-basebyinnings

Toronto

000

100

020

3

7

0

Kansas City

110

000

11x

4

9

0

a-struck out for Goins in the 9th.

1-ran for Rios in the 7th. 2-ran for K.Morales in the 8th. 3-ran for Ru.Martin in the 9th.

LOB: Toronto 8, Kansas City 6. 2B: Revere (1), Encarnacion (1). HR: Bautista (1), off Ventura; Bautista (2), off Madson; Zobrist (2), off Price; Moustakas (1), off Price. RBIs: Bautista 3 (6), Zobrist (4), Hosmer (6), Moustakas (5), Rios (3). SB: Pompey 2 (2), Pillar (2), Rios (1).

Runners left in scoring position: Toronto 6 (Encarnacion, Donaldson 3, Tulowitzki 2); Kansas City 4 (Hosmer, Zobrist 2, S.Perez). RISP: Toronto 0 for 12; Kansas City 1 for 6. Runners moved up: A.Gordon. GIDP: S.Perez. DP: Toronto 1 (Tulowitzki, Goins, Colabello).

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Toronto

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Price

6.2

5

3

3

1

8

5.40

Aa.Sanchez

0.1

2

0

0

0

0

0.00

Osuna L, 0-1

1

2

1

1

1

0

6.75

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Ventura

5.1

4

1

1

2

5

3.38

K.Herrera

1.2

0

0

0

0

2

0.00

Madson

0.1

2

2

2

1

1

7.71

W.Davis W, 1-0

1.2

1

0

0

1

3

0.00

Blown save: Madson (1). Holds: K.Herrera (3). Inherited runners-scored: Aa.Sanchez 1-1, K.Herrera 1-0, W.Davis 1-0. WP: W.Davis.

Umpires: Home, Jeff Nelson; First, Jim Reynolds; Second, Laz Diaz; Third, John Hirschbeck; Left, Hunter Wendelstedt; Right, Dan Iassogna. Time: 3:22 (Delay: 0:45). Att: 40,494.

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