Let’s first focus on what was awesome about Game 6 of the American League Championship Series while congratulating the Kansas City Royals because their 4-3 win Friday to return to the World Series was a great game to watch, even with a rain delay in the mix. But there was unfortunately a lot of other stuff that makes you wonder about the positive impact of everything the game puts on the table when it comes to officiating and oversight. But first things first …
1. Lorenzo Cain’s basepaths rampagement runs the Royals to a repeat as AL champs: With the score tied, Cain worked a walk to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. And when Eric Hosmer dropped a pretty single up the right-field line on a 2-2 pitch from Roberto Osuna, it looked like a nice first-and-third situation … except Cain wasn’t putting on the brakes, rounding third while the Jays executed the sensible play on defense (throwing in to the cutoff man at second) and beating the relay throw home.
And why not? Cain ranks among the most successfully aggressive baserunners in baseball -- his taking an extra base 68 percent of the time this season was just a notch behind AL leader Elvis Andrus, and was the brand of awesome that elicits thoughts like …
Lorenzo Cain may be my favorite ballplayer now.— Tim Lemke (@TimLemkeTweets) October 24, 2015
And ain’t that the truth for more than a few of us, right now and always?
2. Jose Bautista is awesome: Two home runs, and almost three? Let’s just say Joey Bats did everything he could to win this game. His first homer, a solo shot, put the Blue Jays on the board. The second, hit in the eighth with a man on, tied the game and ruined what had looked like another cookie-cutter victory sealed by the Royals’ brilliant bullpen. And in the intervening at-bat, he just missed crushing another homer, which would have put him into Reggie Jackson territory for October awesomeness -- because who knows how things might have played out?
Jose Bautista really, really wants to go to a World Series.— Emma Span (@emmaspan) October 24, 2015
3. Wade Davis delivers a win, albeit with a little help from the boys in blue: Everyone knew that the weather front was going to roll in sometime around 10 p.m. Central, and given Ned Yost’s comments during the delay, that knowledge seemed to influence his decision to go to Ryan Madson in the eighth after Kelvin Herrera had finished the sixth and thrown the seventh, anticipating that he might be able to go to closer Wade Davis after the delay. But then Joey Bats did his thing, Madson allowed the game-tying homer, and Davis had to come in and control the damage before that guaranteed rain arrived.
So, not ideal, but an understandable problem. Maybe Yost should have let it ride with Herrera, knowing that would burn him for a potential Game 7, but his decision was defensible. Ultimately, it meant Davis ended up having to wait an hour between his last pitch in the eighth and his first in the ninth. That tough task with runners on base and the tying run 90 feet from home was made more than a little easier by home-plate ump Jeff Nelson’s widening the strike zone on Dioner Navarro and even more crucially at 2-1 on Ben Revere, calling what should have been ball 3 strike 2.
Jeff Nelson made the same call on a high outside strike to Dionner Navarro & Ben Revere. pic.twitter.com/yH96RgLMkc— Dan Hayes (@CSNHayes) October 24, 2015
So, as far as history is concerned, Davis did a gutty, awesome thing to seal the Royals’ win. But like a lot of folks, I would have liked to have seen him do it entirely under his own power.
4. The subject of fan interference makes another October appearance. Mike Moustakas jacked a home run to right field. It looked like a homer, and he clearly creamed the pitch …
With an exit velocity of 109.2 mph, this is Moustakas' hardest hit homer all year, per @statcast.— Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers) October 24, 2015
… except that Royals fan Caleb Humphreys, sitting in the front row, got a glove on the ball either in front of the wall or altering its trajectory at the wall, requiring some replay drama after the umps called a homer when it looked much more like a ground-rule double.
MLB’s eventual assertion from its New York suites was that there was an absence of definitive proof to overturn the call originally made by the umps on the field, which brings home the real problem with replay in this instance: It was a time-wasting abdication of authority on a potentially series-deciding play. The net result here was that the folks in New York decided they didn’t really know what happened with more perfect information after the umps jumped to a conclusion with the naked eye from a distance.
Some of you might take that as close enough to an endorsement of the tough job umps have to do. But it looks a lot more like baseball still isn’t fulfilling replay’s most basic responsibility: to deliver accurate outcomes, and not just rubber-stamp best guesses. Replay might never make everybody happy all of the time, but ultimately this was a call that was way too much Jeffrey Maier for my taste.
5. David Price did something to redeem his growing "Mr. Not-October" rep. With his team losing all seven of his previous postseason starts, his eighth was perhaps the biggest game yet for the free agent-to-be. And after surrendering solo homers in the first and second innings, you might understand if more than a few Blue Jays fans already were averting their gaze and hiding under their sofa cushions.
But Price rebounded to grind out four shutout innings to keep his team in the game, he nearly escaped the seventh without any damage, and Bautista nearly changed the equation. Price still wound up with his team losing, but considering he’d gotten just 12 runs scored for him in his first seven postseason starts, and only one Friday during his time on the mound, you can still credit him with giving his team a game they could have won.
If score holds, & you hear "David Price 0-8 as playoff starter" for rest of your life, know that in 4 of those losses his team scored 1 run.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 24, 2015
Price had some help, almost avoiding that last run thanks to Revere throwing some serious leather in the seventh. With the Jays' season on the line, down by a run, and Moustakas on first base after a leadoff single, Revere made an amazing leaping catch at the wall in left field on a Salvador Perez smash for the first out. Revere not only kept a run off the board, his relay throw nearly got Moustakas retracing his steps to first -- Chris Colabello would have spared the Jays damage if he’d come up with the ball to complete the double play. Instead, Alex Rios plated a key insurance run against Aaron Sanchez, but the Royals might have already had that run and added another if not for Revere’s play.
Me and Ophie after seeing that catch by Revere... pic.twitter.com/kpIWp7nTYw— Nate Bukaty (@nate_bukaty) October 24, 2015
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.