(Reuters) - The Kansas City Royals saw their chance and took it, exploding for five runs in the seventh inning to steal a 6-3 win over the stunned Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday and seize a commanding 2-0 lead in the American League Championship Series.
The best-of-seven series shifts to Toronto for Game Three on Monday, with the Blue Jays desperate for a victory.
It is familiar territory for Toronto, which lost the opening two games of the AL Division Series to the Texas Rangers before coming back to sweep the next three and advance to the next round.
”You don’t like to get in the habit of doing it, that’s for sure,“ said Toronto manager John Gibbons. ”Our back is against the wall, but it will be good to go back home where we normally play well.
“We feel good. It’s a lot tougher from here. But we have a pretty good team, too.”
Leading 3-0 and with ace David Price on cruise control having retired 18 consecutive batters, Toronto looked poised to level the series until a Kansas City barrage of seventh inning singles during which Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales, on a fielder’s choice, all drove in runs.
The inning began on an ominous note when Kansas City second baseman Ben Zobrist floated a soft pop fly into shallow right that left Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista staring at each other to make the easy catch as the ball fell fair.
With the two players running to make the catch Goins put up his glove appearing to call off Bautista but then stopped and dropped to the turf as the ball hit the ground between them.
Kansas City left fielder Gordon considered the mix-up the turning point of the game.
”He (Price) was cruising, we got that early at-bat. Price is a tough pitcher,“ Gordon said. ”I felt like we needed to catch a break and Zobrist’s ball there I think got things going.
“Once this lineup gets moving, it’s one guy after another, and it was a big seventh inning.”
Added Gibbons: ”The way I saw it looked like Ryan kind of held him (Bautista) off a little bit and he might have backed Jose up a little bit and the ball dropped in.
“They were looking for that one crack because David was so good ... It’s a shame it had to end that way.”
After Toronto opened the door the Royals did not look back, scoring five and adding another on a Moustakas RBI in the eighth.
A regular Cy Young contender rated one of the best pitchers in baseball, Price has not produced the same results in the postseason, where he is 0-7 as a starter.
”The breaks didn’t go our way,“ said Goins. ”We’ve been down two before and came back so we are going to Toronto (to) take three games.
”I put my glove up and was pretty much saying I‘m going to make this play and I didn’t so it’s on me.
“I put my glove up, that’s our sign and it means I’ve got it, and just thought I heard something that I didn‘t.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Andrew Both.