Kansas City Royals: Revisiting the 2015 ALDS Game 4
By Shawn Bauman
The Kansas City Royals were not only between a rock and hard place series-wise, they were down by four runs heading into the eighth inning of game 4.
After the Houston Astros had locked down the Kansas City Royals 4-2 in game three of the best-of-five series, Kansas City needed to reach deep inside to prevent an early exit from the playoffs and send the series back to Kauffman Stadium. Hoping to do that was Yordano Ventura, making his first appearance in the 2015 playoffs.
Coming off a nice, but less dominating year than 2014, he was still a fiery young presence on the mound. Opposing Ventura would be Lance McCullers, a 21-year-old rookie who, despite a 6-7 record, put up a 3.22 ERA, an ERA+ of 121 and 2.1 WAR in 22 starts for the Astros.
After a scoreless first inning, Mike Moustakas drew a walk and Salvador Perez blasted his second home run of the playoffs giving Kansas City an early inning lead; a situation they were not accustomed to in the series. That lead would be promptly cut in half in the bottom of the second as Carlos Gomez flashed some power with a solo shot, also homer number 2 for him in the series. Despite hitting for power the previous three seasons, Gomez had only managed twelve dingers split between Milwaukee and Houston all year.
In the bottom of the third, Carlos Correa flexed his muscles with a line drive over the wall in left-center field and the game was now tied. Besides the two mistakes, Ventura had some nasty stuff going recording seven strikeouts in the first nine outs of the game.
The pitchers kept things in check for the next couple of frames, not allowing any base runners past first. Following his eighth punch out in the bottom the fifth, “Ace” ran into trouble with a walk to George Springer and the next batter, Correra, chased him home with a double for his second RBI of the game. McCullers continued to deal, shutting down Kansas City in the sixth. Kelvin Herrera replaced Ventura and struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth.
Following a one-out pitch that hit Perez, McCullers was replaced by Will Harris. Showing the need to get the game tied, Ned Yost called upon Terrance Gore to run for Perez. The move at first paid off as Gore stole second, however after Alex Gordon struck out, Gore was caught trying to nab third.
Drew Butera replaced Perez behind the plate and after a leadoff walk, Ryan Madson replaced Herrera. Despite a great campaign in 2015 following no major league appearances since 2011 for Madson, he did not have his A-game this contest. After punching out Springer, Correra dialed long-distance to score two more Astros. That made it two home runs, a double and four runs batted in for him to this point. Colby Rasmus made it back-to-back homers and the Royals found themselves in a precarious situation down by four runs and only two at-bats left, leading to an unfortunate premature tweet from the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.
Kansas City got to Harris to begin the eighth with three singles in a row by Alex Rios, Alcides Escobar and Ben Zobrist loading the bases. Lorenzo Cain kept the line moving with his own single and now the Royals are only down by three and still have the bags juiced with no outs. In came Tony Sipp for the Astros to try to stop the bleeding. Sipp would end up appearing in every game of this series and not allowing any earned runs and only one hit in 4.1 innings, but luck was not on his side this day.
The one hit would come from the next batter, Eric Hosmer, whose single chased Escobar to the plate and the game is tied. Correra could not handle a Kendrys Morales ground ball which allowed Zobrist and Cain to come around to score. With the Royals down by just one now, Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran for Morales and immediately stole second base.
After striking out Moustakas, Luke Gregerson came in to face Butera and although Kansas City fans would have rather seen Perez in this situation, Butera drew a walk bringing Gordon to the plate. A fielder’s choice to second was good enough for Dyson to touch home and the Royals had unbelievably rallied for five runs to take the lead.
Wade Davis sat down Houston 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth and A.J. Hinch called on Josh Fields to keep Kansas City in check to give the Astros a chance to rally in their final at-bat. Fields, however, walked Zobrist and with one out, Hosmer crushed the ball over the fence in right field giving the Royals two valuable insurance runs.
Davis stayed in the game and collected the rare two-inning save striking out three total and somehow the series would go back to Kansas City in a winner-take-all battle. It would seem momentum was on the Kansas City Royals side and the deciding game at Kauffman will feature Colin McHugh, who defeated KC in Game 1 in the series, against Johnny Cueto, making his first start of the postseason.