TORONTO (Reuters) - The Kansas City Royals pounced early then powered their way to a 14-2 demolition of the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday to move one win away from reaching the World Series for a second consecutive year.
The Royals, with the help of a two-run homer from Ben Zobrist, scored four runs in the first inning then sealed the victory with a four-run seventh to seize a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
Game Five is in Toronto on Wednesday.
“We feel good, we like the way we’re playing right now,” Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters. “Our offense has been really, really good.
“We have (Edison) Volquez coming back tomorrow. Our defense is always spectacular and our bullpen is primed to go tomorrow too.
“We’re in really good shape.”
The Blue Jays, who won Monday’s Game Three, sent 40-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the mound with hopes of tying the series.
But the former Cy Young Award winner gave up five runs in 1-2/3 innings that left Toronto in a 5-0 hole they could not overcome despite scoring two runs in the third and Australian reliever Liam Hendriks providing 4-1/3 innings of spotless relief to keep their comeback hopes alive.
But the Royals ended any chance of a rally roughing up 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who came on in the seventh but failed to record an out and gave up three runs on two hits and then roughed up reliever Ryan Tepera for four runs on five hits.
In a final act of desperation to save his pitchers for what a do-or-die Game Five, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons sent utility infielder Cliff Pennington to the hill to get the final out which he finally managed but not before Kansas City pushed across two more runs to complete the rout.
Pennington becomes the first positional player to pitch in an post-season game in the major leagues.
Alcides Escobar, who sparked the offense with a leadoff single in the first, finished with four RBIs while Lorenzo Cain had three RBIS and Alex Rios chipped in with three hits.
“It was ugly today, no doubt about that. That’s all I can say,” summed up Toronto manager John Gibbons. “It’s a do or die game for us. But they do it all year.
“I think these guys will let this one go and they’ll show up to play tomorrow. Not a more important game this season, really. I know these guys will be ready.”
Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury