Eric Hosmer’s mad dash extends game for Royals

With some encouragement from first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, Eric Hosmer rounded first on his RBI double in the ninth inning of Game 5 on Sunday.
With some encouragement from first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, Eric Hosmer rounded first on his RBI double in the ninth inning of Game 5 on Sunday.

To the ever-growing list of Royals’ postseason heroics, add Eric Hosmer’s mad dash.

The indelible moment of the Royals’ World Series-clinching 7-2 victory in 12 innings over the New York Mets in Game 5 on Sunday is a slice of daring from Hosmer, who sprinted home with the game-tying run in the ninth inning on a decision that carried plenty of risk.

But …

“It was time to be aggressive,” Hosmer said.

Hosmer stood at third base with one out in the ninth inning and the Royals trailing 2-1. He had doubled home Lorenzo Cain, who had walked and stole second.

Hosmer had taken third on Mike Moustakas’ slow roller to first baseman Lucas Duda, and Salvador Perez stepped up to the plate.

Perez got around on the slider from closer Jeurys Familia but sent a broken-bat soft one-hopper to third baseman David Wright.

The ball was hit to Wright’s left. He stepped in front of shortstop Wilmer Flores to make the play, and looked back at Hosmer.

But Wright wasn’t near the bag, allowing Hosmer to step even further away from the base. When Wright threw to Duda, Hosmer broke for home.

The mad dash was on, and if the Mets made the play cleanly there would have been a bang-bang play at the plate and perhaps a game-ending double play.

“A good throw and he’s out,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

But that didn’t happen. Duda’s throw was high and to the first-base side of home plate. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud leaped and couldn’t come up with the catch, and Hosmer slid head first into home.

Risk taken. Game tied.

“If he throws it right on the bag, he’s out,” first-base coach Rusty Kuntz said. “We’ll take that chance. This is the World Series. We don’t ‘What if,’ No. We just go.”

Hosmer took into account the scenario. Although he didn’t have a great series, Familia is a superb closer.

“With a guy like Familia on the mound, hits are tough to come by,” Hosmer said. “But that's our style of play, to be aggressive. We just had to take a chance right there.”

The boldness paid off. The Royals had tied the game and the Mets could only sag their shoulders and think, “Again?”

The Royals had erased a two-run deficit to win Game 4. They got Alex Gordon’s home run against Familia in the ninth inning to send Game 1 into extra innings, where they won in the 14th.

The three victories in the Division Series against the Astros were produced in comeback fashion, and the Royals erased a late three-run deficit against the Blue Jays in Game 2 of the ALCS.

In most games, the Royals hit their way back to victory. This time, they gambled, and Hosmer getting the opportunity required some moments that can go unappreciated.

With one out, Cain drew a walk from Harvey. In his previous two plate appearances, Cain had struck out against Harvey and swung at pitches out of the strike zone in hitter’s counts both times.

Hosmer’s double scored Cain, and situational hitting was required here.

Moustakas topped a Familia pitch to Duda, moving Hosmer to third and in position for the tying run.

It came in a dash that had Kuntz doing a double take.

“I thought, “Oh, my God, did we pinch run there or what?” Kuntz said.

No, just Hosmer taking a gamble that paid off.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff