This is not the first time the Kansas City Royals have been in trouble this season.
A .500 team after 100 games, the Royals turned it on down the stretch to earn their first playoff berth in 29 years.
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Down four runs in the eighth inning of the AL Wild Card Game, Kansas City rallied to force extra innings and then overcame another deficit in the 12th before beating the Oakland Athletics.
Now, after being blanked 5-0 by San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner on Sunday night, the Royals find themselves on the brink of elimination again as they head home trailing 3-2 in the World Series.
”We know we can do it,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. ”We’re a confident group. But we can’t do anything without winning Game 6. We’re excited to get back home where we feed off the fans and that energy.”
The Royals have history on their side. Eight of the past 10 teams that headed home trailing 3-2 in the Series won it all. Kansas City is one of the teams that did it, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to beat St. Louis for the franchise’s only championship in 1985.
One other factor in the Royals’ favor is that Bumgarner won’t be able to start again. The left-hander won two of the first five games, including a brilliant four-hitter Sunday that left Kansas City searching for answers.
”He throws three, four pitches that are all plus and commands all of them well,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. ”Just when you think you figure something out, he does the exact opposite and messes with you. That’s how he is, that’s how he goes.”
The Royals’ stay in San Francisco got off to a splendid start when they won 3-2 in Game 3 to take the lead in the Series and then went ahead 4-1 early in Game 4.
That all unraveled quickly. They have been outscored 15-0 in the past 14 innings as the bats have gone silent and a once-dominant bullpen has shown some vulnerabilities. But Kansas City’s confidence has not waned.
”I think the character in our clubhouse is at an all-time high,” said starter James Shields, who allowed two runs in six innings to take the loss in Game 5. ”That’s what’s going to get us through the next two games. We’ve been here before late in the season when we had to get some wins late in September and we got it done. It’s no different.”
In fact, the task is much less daunting than the one the Royals faced against Oakland, when they trailed Jon Lester 7-3 in the eighth inning. They scored three runs in the eighth, tied it with another in the ninth and then scored two in the 12th to win 9-8.
That started a run of 10 postseason wins in 11 games that was brought to a sudden halt the past two nights in San Francisco.
The Royals are hoping they can turn things around starting Tuesday night, when rookie Yordano Ventura pitches against Jake Peavy. A win would force a seventh game, with Jeremy Guthrie starting against Tim Hudson.
Kansas City’s two wins in the Series came when those pitchers faced each other the first time.
”We feel good about our matchups,” manager Ned Yost said. ”We’ve got to walk the tightrope now without a net, but our guys aren’t afraid of walking the tightrope without a net. We fall off and we’re dead. But we win Tuesday, nobody’s got a net. It’s going to be winner take all. So we think it’s going to be fun.”