Royals' cast of characters refuse to let season end

HOUSTON -- There were significant contributors scattered everywhere around a giddy Kansas City Royals postgame clubhouse early Monday evening. Some were obvious, while others were a bit more inconspicuous.

In the Royals' 9-6 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday to stave off elimination and force a deciding Game 5 on Wednesday at Kansas City, it took a village.

There was the motivational speaker: Mike Moustakas.

There was the rally starter: Alex Rios.

The glue that strung it all together: Drew Butera.

Don't forget the author of what could go down as one of the greatest groundouts in Royals history: Alex Gordon.

And the final nail: Wade Davis.

But there also was the downtrodden pitcher that nobody wanted to see with his head hung low: Ryan Madson.

Nobody was sure, exactly, who to credit with the biggest moment in another magical Royals postseason rally -- one that bore a shocking resemblance to last year's comeback in the American League wild-card game.

Not all of the questions asked postgame made an attempt to connect last year's four-run wild-card rally with this year's ALDS rally from four runs down, it only seemed like they did.

"I wouldn't say it's easy, but we found a way in the wild-card game last year and we found a way today in a big win-or-go-home situation here," said Lorenzo Cain, whose contribution to the big inning was an RBI single for the first run. "We just found a way to get it done today."

The orange-clad core of Minute Maid Park had just been set into a frenzy, thanks to back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning from Carlos Correa and Colby Rasmus. The Astros' stars of the postseason looked to be carrying their team to the American League Championship Series by constructing a 6-2 lead.

Madson, who made a triumphant return to baseball after four years away, gave the Royals one of his worst outings of the season at a most inopportune moment.

But when the Royals returned to the dugout, Moustakas made his voice heard. Royals players said his passion hit the perfect tone. So what kind of speech inspires a five-run outburst?

"I can't say that on the air," Moustakas said. "It was just that we're not losing this game. We've worked too hard and we've come too far, and we were just able to battle and score some runs that inning."

Rios started the eighth with a single, followed by a single from Alcides Escobar and another from Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Then came back-to-back RBI singles from Cain and Eric Hosmer. Those were followed with Kendrys Morales' bouncer up the middle that could have been a double play, but the ball was tipped by pitcher Tony Sipp, Correa misread the spin on the ball and he tipped it into center field for a two-run error.

With the score tied 6-6, Gordon then grounded out to second base wide enough to Jose Altuve's left to allow Hosmer to score. Hosmer added the insurance with a two-run home run in the ninth.

Sandwiched in between it all was a Butera walk that extended the rally. It was an impressive 11-pitch at-bat, considering that Butera had not had an at-bat in eight days and had only been to the plate six times this month.

"Hitting's contagious, and when you see six guys in front of you put together good at-bats and keep the line moving, you don't want to be that guy that just goes up there and swings at it -- one, two, three -- and heads back to the dugout," Butera said. "That was my plan, to keep the line moving and get on base."

Davis gave up just a single, to Correa of course, while recording his six-out save. He became just the third pitcher in Royals history to record a two-inning save in the postseason, along with Dan Quisenberry in Game Four of the 1980 World Series and Steve Mingori in Game Four of the 1976 American League Championship Series.

In the end, the winning pitcher was Madson, who actually authored the worst inning of the day from a Royals pitcher. From a group that prides itself on the team concept, it seemed fitting. The Royals were determined to pick him up, even as Minute Maid Park roared.

"They were fired up for me," Madson said. "They were saying, ‘It's not going to end like this. Don't worry about it, we got it.' And I think it fired them up, it really did. I'll take it, if that's what it takes for us to get fired up and get a win out of it."

Madson said it always seemed to work out that way this season. If a reliever gave up a run, the offense picked him up with two runs. It's just how the Royals seem to operate. Maybe Madson has discovered a new way to win: Actually pitch worse, not better.

"Credit to them," Madson said. "I just figured I'd start a rally for our guys, and it worked."