Whenever fans think about the KC Royals making a playoff comeback, the club’s rally from a three-games-to-one World Series deficit is probably the first to come to mind.
But that comeback couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the same kind of comeback against Toronto in that season’s American League Championship Series.
The Blue Jays, who continue their three-game Kauffman Stadium series against the Royals tonight, won the AL East with 99 wins in 1985, led by a big hitting outfield of George Bell, Jesse Barfield and Lloyd Moseby, and a pitching rotation that included Dave Stieb, Doyle Alexander, Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy.
Kansas City won 91 games to take the AL West, led by one of George Brett’s best all-around seasons as he hit .335 with 30 home runs and 112 RBIs. Offensively, Steve Balboni slammed a then-club record 36 home runs. Five starters won at least 10 games and Bret Saberhagen captured the Cy Young Award.
Toronto captured an early Championship Series lead against the KC Royals.
Stieb tossed eight shutout innings and Kansas City starter Charlie Leibrandt was roughed up for five runs in two innings as the Blue Jays took Game 1 in Toronto 6-1. Not only did Leibrandt last just two innings, but starters Mark Gubicza and Danny Jackson also pitched in the game.
Game 2 went to the eighth inning tied at 3-3. An unearned run off club Hall of Fame relief ace Dan Quisenberry gave the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead, but pinch hitter Pat Sheridan led off the Royal ninth with a homer off Toronto closer Tom Henke to tie it. The Royals took a 5-4 lead in the 10th against Henke, but three singles and an error won it for the Jays in the bottom of the 10th against Quisenberry.
The KC Royals managed to stay alive when the ALCS moved to Kansas City.
Saberhagen cruised into the fifth inning with a 2-0 lead in Game 3 in Kansas City. Six hitters later, Saberhagen had given up five hits and five runs, highlighted by two-run homers by Barfield and former Royal Rance Mulliniks, who found a home with the Blue Jays and became one of the franchise’s top players.
Down 2-0 in the series and 5-2 in the game, the Royals faced an uphill battle.
Jim Sundberg started the KC comeback with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth, and Brett added a two-run shot in the sixth to tie it against Alexander. Clancy came on in relief for the Jays in the eighth and Balboni capped the comeback with an RBI single for a 6-5 win.
A three-run ninth inning in Game 4 broke up a spectacular pitching performance from Leibrandt as the Jays won 3-1 to take a 3-1 series lead.
A groundout from Brett in the first inning and a sacrifice fly from Darryl Motley provided two quiet runs but that was enough for Jackson, who scattered eight hits in a 2-0 shutout in Game 5 to keep the Royals alive heading back to Toronto.
The KC Royals came through when it counted to upend Toronto and win the ALCS.
Brett homered off Alexander to put the Royals up 3-2 in the fifth inning of Game 6 and back-to-back doubles from Buddy Biancalana and Lonnie Smith made it 5-2 in the sixth. Black relieved Gubicza at 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth and Quisenberry recorded the final out to even the series at 3-3 and force Game 7.
Saberhagen, who suffered a leg injury when struck by a Moseby hit in Game 3, drew the start for the Royals against Stieb and pitched three shutout innings before being lifted in favor of Leibrandt.
Sheridan scored on a Sundberg single in the second for a 1-0 lead, then Sheridan homered in the fourth to make it 2-0 Royals.
The Jays got a run back in the fifth, but Sundberg tripled with the bases loaded in the sixth and came home on Frank White’s single to give the Royals a commanding lead.
Leibrandt pitched into the ninth and Quisenberry logged the final two outs for a 6-2 win. When Moseby grounded to second base and Balboni took the throw from White, the Royals were on their way to the World Series for the second time in club history.
The Royals made a fantastic and improbable comeback in the 1985 ALCS.