Already on the ropes after a Game 1 defeat, the Kansas City Royals face a must-win situation to avoid going back to Texas in a 2-0 hole.
Taking the bump for the Astros is Scott Kazmir who came over mid-season from the Oakland A’s. He did not perform as well after the trade but was still a solid veteran left-hander. The same could be said for Kansas City Royals right-hander Johnny Cueto. Traded from the Cincinnati Reds during the year, his ERA jumped by over 2 points and his WHIP increased from 0.934 to 1.451.
The game starts well for Cueto as in between a walk he induces a flyout and strikes out Carlos Correa. Unfortunately, Colby Rasmus drives a double to right field scoring George Springer before he can escape the first inning. The second frame is no better, as Springer drives home two with bases loaded putting Houston up 3-0 after two. It is starting to look like the first game all over again.
Salvador Perez brings Kauffman Stadium to life smacking a ball over the wall in right-center field, cutting the lead to two. Rasmus plays spoiler again by hitting a homer himself and we are back to a three-run deficit for the good guys. The bottom of third looks very promising as Alex Rios doubles and Alcides Escobar follows that with a bunt single, putting runners at the corners. A Ben Zobrist ground ball to third starts a 5-4-3 double play but a run scores. That gets the Royals to within two.
Both pitchers find their grove beginning in inning number four as Cueto sits down nine of his next eleven batters faced, mixing in a couple of strikeouts. Kazmir stymies Kansas City in the fourth and outside of a walk in the fifth, has no issues. The sixth starts well with a flyout but a double from Lorenzo Cain chases Kazmir out of the game with Oliver Perez relieving him.
Perez only faced Eric Hosmer the night before and recorded the out, and is called upon to retire him again. However, “Hoz” has different plans and smacks a line drive to center field, chasing Cain home to cut the lead to 4-3. Kendrys Morales then places a ground ball into center and Mike Moustakas shows patience drawing the walk to load the bases. That closes the door on Perez as he is not able to get an out facing three batters.
Next to the mound is Josh Fields, who promptly issues a free pass to Perez and we are knotted up at four runs apiece. Kansas City fails to take the lead as Alex Gordon and Rios both strike out with the bags full of Royals. Kelvin Herrera enters the game after Cueto goes six innings — allowing four earned runs, striking out five and walking three. Not great numbers but the way he was able to pull it together to stop the bleeding was vital.
Other than a single, Herrera is able to keep the A’s in check. Now on to pitch the bottom of the seventh is Will Harris for Oakland. Escobar smokes a triple to center field and Zobrist singles to bring him in, giving Kansas City their first lead of the series after 16 innings of ball! No more scoring for this inning and now the Royals turn to their bullpen to see if they can close out the game.
Normally we would see the HDH combo but Greg Holland went down with a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament late in the season that would lead to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Wade Davis finished the year as the closer and Ryan Madson was thrown into the late-inning mix. Indeed we would see Madson and he made it look easy getting Evan Gattis to ground out and then striking out Luis Valbuena and Chris Carter.
The Royals could not tack on any insurance runs so it is up to Davis to secure the victory. Jed Lowrie goes down looking but Preston Tucker pinch hits for Jake Marisnick and draws a walk putting the tying run on. Carlos Gomez then pinch runs for Tucker as the Astros try to get speed on the base paths to even up the game.
Inexplicably, Gomez is picked off and now Davis just needs one more out. An Altuve ground ball to Moustakas is easily handled and the Kansas City Royals capture a 5-4 win and momentum heading down the Houston.
Herrera is credited with the win and Davis the save as Fields is pegged with a blown save and Harris ultimately hung with the loss. Rasmus had the only two extra-base hits for the Astros while the Royals banged out two doubles, a triple and the Perez home run.
Will Game 3 continue the winning ways for the Kansas City Royals, or will they find themselves with their backs against the wall? We will have the recap for you on October 11th.