Almost out of time and out of the playoffs, the Kansas City Royals realized they needed more than a big home run.
They needed a lot of hits — a maybe a little help, too.
The defending AL champions saved their season Monday. They took advantage when Astros shortstop Carlos Correa couldn’t handle a deflected grounder that might have been a double-play ball, rallying for five runs in the eighth inning to beat Houston 9-6, forcing their playoff series to a decisive Game 5.
"We always feel that we’re still in games, and we still have a chance," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "That’s the mentality for this whole entire team. It’s never quit, and the character we showed today. That’s what a championship ballclub does."
Correa homered twice, doubled, singled and drove in four runs in Game 4 of the AL Division Series. Houston took a 6-2 lead into the eighth, but a tough error charged to the 21-year-old rookie keyed the Royals’ comeback to even the matchup at two games apiece.
"I missed it. That’s what happened," Correa said. "I wish I was perfect. I wish I could do everything perfect, but I’m not. I’m human."
Correa was at his locker the minute clubhouse opened to media. After crucial error, answered every question. Says a lot about his character.
Game 5 will be back in Kansas City on Wednesday night. Johnny Cueto is set to start for the Royals against Collin McHugh.
"Everyone that watched that game, everybody that was a part of that game knows how difficult it is to feel like that game was closing in our favor and then have it not go our way," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
"But it’s big boy sport. We’ll adjust, and we will be ready to play," he said.
Kansas City opened the eighth with five straight singles off relievers Will Harris and Tony Sipp, with RBI hits by Lorenzo Cain and Hosmer making it 6-4 and leaving the bases loaded with no outs.
"Obviously, we’re pretty late in the game right there and down by four, so not one guy can get us back in this game. So we got to do whatever we can to keep the line moving," Hosmer said.
Kendrys Morales followed with a hard, one-bouncer off Sipp’s glove. The ball took two more hops and got past the top of Correa’s mitt, rolling into center field as two runs scored to tie it at 6.
"Just a weird spin on the ball and tough play," Sipp said. "I’m sure it was tougher than it looked. Game of inches, and I barely missed it."
Alex Gordon’s RBI groundout off Luke Gregerson later in the inning put Kansas City ahead.
Hosmer launched a long, two-run homer in the ninth for insurance.
It was the second time in franchise history that Kansas City had rallied from a four-run deficit after seven innings to win a postseason game. Last year, the Royals trailed Oakland 7-3 in the eighth of their AL Wild Card Game before eventually winning in the 12th.
"I felt real confident that we were going to make a game out of it," manager Ned Yost said. "I just felt that the bats were going to come alive, and they really did in the eighth inning. I mean really did."
Ryan Madson (1-0) gave up two home runs in the seventh and still got the win. Wade Davis pitched two scoreless innings for his second save. It was the third time he’s pitched two innings in the postseason after also doing it twice last season.
Colby Rasmus homered for Houston, his fourth in five playoff games this October. Carlos Gomez also connected for the Astros.
Correa went 4 for 4 and was hit by a pitch.
Plunked by Yordano Ventura his first time up, Correa answered with a solo homer to tie it in the third. He put Houston on top with an RBI double in the fifth and became the youngest player with a multihomer game in AL playoff history with a two-run shot off Ryan Madson in the seventh for a 6-2 lead.
At 21 years and 20 days old, Correa became the youngest player in franchise history to homer in the playoffs, the youngest shortstop to do it in the postseason in major-league history and sixth-youngest player overall.
Salvador Perez hit a two-run homer in the second to give the Royals an early lead. But Houston starter Lance McCullers retired 15 of the next 18 batters, leaving after hitting Perez with a pitch with one out in the seventh.
Rasmus, who homered in the AL Wild Card Game win over the Yankees, hit his third home run of the ALDS when he followed Correa’s second shot with a home run off the foul pole in right field in the seventh.
GLAD HE’S OK: Two pitches before his home run, Perez fouled a ball into the stands down the first base line and it struck a young boy. Perez looked concerned and took a second to get back in the box. Later, a team official said the boy was fine after being treated by first aid at the ballpark.