Momentum swing: Royals' big inning against Astros shifts ALDS mindset
The Kansas City Royals stepped up big time in Game 4 of the ALDS, scoring seven runs in the final two innings to extend their season to at least a Game 5 in a 9-6 win over the Houston Astros.
For the Royals, the world'sin drew up memories of the milestone victory Kansas City had in the 2014 Wild Card Game against the A's in Oakland. During that game the club had faced a 7-3 deficit in the eighth inning, after that late-inning rally, the Royals won in the 12th on their road to an eventual World Series appearance.
"That's the thing about this team, we always feel that we're still in games and we still have a chance," first baseman Eric Hosmer said.
Lesser clubs would have been rattled as Astros rookie sensation Carlos Correa hit his second home run of the day and Colby Rasmus dropped his fourth homer of the postseason to develop a four-run lead at the end of seven on the road. However, that's not the character of this Royals ballclub.
"That's the mentality for this whole entire team. It's never quit," Hosmer, who hit a two-run homer in the ninth, said. "And the character we showed today, that's what a championship ballclub does."
Royals' manager Ned Yost didn't see any doubt in the eyes of his players' in the dugout after what could have been a demoralizing blow. Instead, he watched as his club placed eight men on base to take a 7-6 lead.
"In the dugout? It was fine... the thing about this club is that they don't quit. They don't," Yost said. "After giving up three runs there in the bottom of the seventh, they came in [the eighth inning] on fire."
Now, Kansas City is going home to the sea of Royal blue at Kauffman Stadium in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the ALDS.
On the other side of the field, the Astros were just six outs away from moving on in the playoffs with a four-run lead. Excitement flooded the Houston dugout, and the sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park was ready to see its team back in a league championship series after a long 10 years.
After the lead was lost to the Royals, an uncomfortable silence fell over the crowd.
Can the 'Stros overcome the heartbreak in time for Wednesday's Game 5?
"[The Astros] don't need to be told that this was a tough loss. They don't need to be told that Game 5's a big game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We will show up with our personality. We're going to give it everything we have to continue the season, as is the club across the way."
While the Astros are one of the youngest clubs in the majors, they've had their share of rough patches this season, but have still managed to continue exceeding expectations.
"We have lost like this before, but it's been in May or June and not on this stage," right fielder George Springer said. "Stuff like this happens. It's not ideal, but it happens."
Before the eighth inning Monday afternoon, the series momentum appeared to be on Houston's side. Has it now swung back to Royals?
"We have just as good a chance to win Game 5 as the Royals. And we're going to hop on a plane, go work out tomorrow, and we're going to show up ready to play in Game 5," Hinch said. "It's going to be electric atmosphere in Kauffman Stadium."
Despite popular opinion, momentum isn't everything baseball, at least according to Hinch.
"It's a big-boy sport. We'll adjust, and we will be ready to play," he said.