The Kansas City Royals rallied for five runs in the eighth inning to stun the Houston Astros 9-6 on Monday and keep their Major League Baseball playoff hopes alive.
While the Royals needed a late surge to knot their best-of-five American League Division Series with Houston at 2-2, the Toronto Blue Jays started fast and kept going to fend off elimination with an 8-4 victory over the Texas Rangers in Arlington.
Kansas City and Toronto will both host decisive game fives on Wednesday, with the winners to duel for a World Series berth.
In Houston, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon drove in the go-ahead run with a ground out off Astros closing pitcher Luke Gregerson.
It was part of a gritty performance by Royals batters in the eighth, after the Astros had taken a 6-2 lead thanks to a two-run homer from Carlos Correa and a solo homer from Colby Ramos in the seventh.
“You have confidence that sooner or later they’re going to put together some hits, they’re going to put some runs on the board,” said Royals manager Ned Yost.
“And even though we were down four in the eighth inning, I felt real confident that we were going to make a game out of it.
“I just felt that the bats were going to come alive, and they really did in the eighth inning — I mean really did.”
Alex Rios got the Royals’ comeback rolling with a leadoff single off Astros relief pitcher Will Harris in the eighth.
Alcides Escobar, Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain followed with singles to bring home one run and load the bases with no outs.
Left-handed reliever Tony Sipp came in to face left-hander Eric Hosmer, who singled to right to trim the deficit to two.
Kendrys Morales then hit a ground ball toward the mound that eluded Sipp and then glanced off the glove of Correa, the costly error allowing two more Royals runs to score.
“I missed it. That’s what happened,” said a dejected Correa — whose error overshadowed a two-homer effort. “I wish I was perfect. I wish I could do everything perfect, but I’m not.”
Sipp struck out Mike Moustakas for the first out of the frame before the Astros brought in closing pitcher Luke Gregerson. He walked Drew Butera to load the bases again, and Gordon’s ground out drove in a run that put the Royals up 7-6.
Gregerson struck out Rios to end the inning, but the damage done was compounded in the top of the ninth when Hosmer crushed a two-run home run to stretch the lead.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch admitted it was a demoralizing defeat, but said his young team would put it behind them.
“We’ve got a good, resilient group,” Hinch said. “We have youth on our side, we’ll have a ton of energy and we’ll show up ready to play.”
– Long ball lifts Jays –
The Blue Jays used the long ball to even their series with the Rangers at 2-2.
Toronto, who led the major leagues with 232 regular-season home runs, smacked three homers in the first two innings as third baseman Josh Donaldson, first baseman Chris Colabello and center fielder Kevin Pillar all went deep as the Blue Jays pummelled Rangers starting pitcher Derek Holland.
Holland surrendered six runs on five hits before he was lifted in the third inning, but reliever Colby Lewis was unable to turn the tide.
Toronto starting pitcher R.A. Dickey, making his first post-season appearance at the age of 40, allowed just one run.
He was pulled with two outs in the fifth for David Price, who got the next nine outs and was awarded the win.