Oct 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates with third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) after hitting a two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning in game four of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park. Royals won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
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The Royals pulled off what will go down as one of their greatest games ever by overcoming a four-run, eighth inning deficit to win 9-6 over the Houston Astros on October 12, 2015. The victory staved off elimination and forced Game 5.
Seeing the Chicago Cubs pull off a four-run, ninth rally to win their NLDS series on Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants made me feel left out of the post-season party. Re-watching the Kansas City Royals win 9-6 in their 2015 ALDS Game 4 match-up against Houston cheered me right up.
Was it a more thrilling victory than the Cubs’ win? In my biased opinion: yes! The Kansas City Royals faced elimination. The Cubs would have gone back to Chicago for Game 5 if they lost to the Giants. On the other hand, the Cubs did pull off their rally in the ninth, which is even more poetic than an eighth-inning comeback.
It Really Depends On Your Rooting Interest
But, really, your answer is going to come down to rooting interest. If you love the KC Royals, it’s not even close. If you bleed Cubs blue, well, Game 4 was so last year.
The Kansas City Royals came into game 4 hoping to see Yordano Ventura take over like he did in World Series game 6 in 2014 with the team also facing elimination. Ventura pitched 7.0 shutout innings in a 10-0 KC win.
Oct 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
An Early Lead
The Royals did stake Ventura to an early 2-0 lead in the game when Salvador Perez launched a two-run bomb in the second inning. But, Ventura quickly surrendered the margin by allowing solo home runs to Carlos Gomez in the second and Carlos Correa in the third.
The game settled into a pitcher’s duel between Ventura and Houston starter Lance McCullers until the bottom of the fifth inning. Ventura surrendered what looked like a crippling run by allowing a two-out walk to George Springer followed by a double to Carlos Correa.
Ventura looked like he might lose the game, despite a credible start. Yes, he gave up three runs, but he struck out eight while allowing four hits and walking three. McCullers, meanwhile, held Kansas City to two runs in 6.1 innings while striking out seven.
Gore’s Big Mistake
The Royals blew what appeared a good scoring chance in the seventh when McCullers hit Perez on the elbow with one out. Will Harris relieved McCullers. Terrance Gore ran for Perez and stole second, but Harris struck out Alex Gordon. Then Terrance Gore attempted to steal third with two outs. Umpires initially ruled him safe, but replay showed that Gore had momentarily lifted his foot from the bag after beating the throw. On a ticky tacky call, Kansas City had give away an out with the tying run in scoring position.
Oct 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) celebrates scoring with left fielder Colby Rasmus (28) on an RBI double by shortstop Carlos Correa (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals in game four of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
A Premature Celebration
Then KC’s vaunted bullpen betrayed them. Ryan Madson replaced Kelvin Herrera after Herrera issued a walk to open the bottom of the seventh. Correa then slammed his second home run of the game, and his fourth RBI, for what appeared to be a finishing blow. With the Astros up 5-2, the Royals looked all but dead. Just to drive the stake even deeper, Colby Rasmus followed with a rainbow shot that stayed just inside the right field foul pole. Ahead, 6-2, Houston fans started to celebrate their ALDS win.
Heck, even Texas governor Greg Abbott jumped on the early celebration train:
Notice that neither the Rangers or Astros have won a playoff game since this premature Tweet by Abbot’s account. Both Texas and Houston failed to advance in 2015, and the Blue Jays swept the Rangers 3-0 in the 2016 ALDS despite Texas coming into the series with the AL’s best regular season record.
One thing most people forget about this game is that Ryan Madson recovered to strand runners on second and third with one out in the seventh. If he tanks, the eighth-inning comeback might not have happened. Four runs was bad enough, but five or more would have made it an even higher mountain to climb.
Oct 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) hits a two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning in game four of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park. Royals won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
You can read about the eight-inning rally in a thousand places on the internet. But, you can find one I like here. But, geez, why bother reading about it? Click the video below and WATCH the condensed game. If you just want to see the rally, you can click here.
Of course, the most striking feature of this inning is how Astros shortstop Carlos Correa went from hero to goat in the fraction of a second it took for him to miss Kendrys Morales grounder up the middle with the bases loaded. But, it wasn’t an easy play. The ball caromed off reliever Tony Sipp‘s foot, which probably put odd spin on the ball that helped it hop over his glove.
Another key is that Houston reliever Luke Gregerson couldn’t do what Ryan Madson did in the eighth. He failed to stop the bleeding when he entered the game with runners on second and third with one out. He allowed the lead run to score, which silenced the home crowd. Eric Hosmer drove the final blow with a two-run home run in the ninth, but he might never have reached the plate if Gregerson took care of business in the eighth.