Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.
After surviving the Division Series against the Houston Astros, the Royals found themselves in a war with the Toronto Blue Jays, owners of the second-best record in the American League in 2015. Kansas City won the first game, 5-0, behind Edinson Volquez and three relievers, who held the Blue Jays to just three hits. With the chance to take control of the series, the Royals needed to overcome Toronto’s David Price, acquired in a deadline deal for just this sort of situation.
The left-handed Price had always been tough on the Royals, but was also trying to overcome his postseason demons; he was 0-6 in his career to this point in the playoffs. But after Alcides Escobar singled to lead off the bottom of the first, Price proceeded to retire 18 straight hitters. With seven strikeouts, including three in a row in the sixth, and just two balls hit out of the infield in that span, he was dominant.
Royals starter Yordano Ventura was trying to keep up. After a perfect first inning, he worked around a pair of singles to start the second. Toronto got consecutive doubles from Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins to start the third, giving the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. But Ventura retired nine of the next 10 batters, and Toronto took their slim lead into the sixth.
The Blue Jays seemed to blow the game open in that frame. The heart of their order began the rally, with Josh Donaldson reaching on an infield single and Jose Bautista drawing a walk. Edwin Encarnacion singled for one run, and Troy Tulowitzki doubled to score another. After Ventura walked Russell Martin, Luke Hochevar put out the fire with two quick outs. But the Jays still had a 3-0 lead, and Price underscored the home team’s predicament by striking out the side in the bottom of the inning.
The game, and the series, turned around quickly in the bottom of the seventh. Ben Zobrist started the inning with a fly ball into short right field. Second baseman Goins and right fielder Bautista converged. Goins appeared to call for the ball, waving his arms. But for some reason, he stopped suddenly, so quickly that he ended up seated on the grass. Bautista had slowed down, and the ball dropped in for a hit.
“It’s a play that I’ve made a hundred times this season. I just lost track of where I was on the field. I thought I heard something I didn’t and I backed off the ball. I should’ve been more aggressive…I thought I heard, ‘I got it.’ It was nothing.”–Goins, quoted by Gregor Chisholm, MLB.com, Oct. 17, 2015
“My perspective? I think there’s video. You can watch it. There was no confusion. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”–Bautista, quoted by Gregor Chisholm, MLB.com, Oct. 17, 2015
Lorenzo Cain followed with a single, and the Royals were in business. Eric Hosmer singled to put Kansas City on the board, with Cain moving to third. With Kendrys Morales up, Hosmer took off for second. Price had not allowed a single stolen base during the regular season, but the Royals were trying to stay out of a double play. The strategy worked, as Morales’ grounder to Tulowitzki was a simple forceout. Cain scored to make the score 3-2. Mike Moustakas tied it up with a single. With two outs, Alex Gordon doubled to put the Royals in front for good at 4-3. Aaron Sanchez took over for Price, but Alex Rios singled for a 5-3 lead before Sanchez got the final out of the inning.
“We just needed to catch a break. Price was throwing the ball unbelievable. We got the early hit, and he was kind of cruising. We just needed to find a way to get a runner on base so we could do what we can, keep the line moving.”–Moustakas, quoted by the Associated Press, October 17, 2015
Kelvin Herrera worked around a one-out double in the eighth, and the Royals added a run in the bottom of the inning when Aaron Loup walked Hosmer and Morales with two outs ahead of a Moustakas single. Wade Davis made things interesting by allowing a leadoff single to Pillar in the ninth and a walk to pinch-hitter Cliff Pennington, but then struck out Ben Revere and Donaldson. Bautista flied out to end the game, and the Royals had a 2-0 advantage in the series as it headed to Toronto, where the Blue Jays had gone 53-28 in the regular season.