Drama Kings: Determined Royals do it again

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The pitcher who would rescue the Kansas City Royals in their biggest time of need waited out a 45-minute rain delay with few words and plenty of determination.

Wade Davis, the best relief pitcher in baseball, knew all along he was going to give his team whatever it needed Friday, it just got more dramatic than a mild-mannered introvert could have ever intended.

Getting back to the World Series had been the goal ever since the San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval plopped on his back after catching the last out in last year's World Series, right there in foul territory on the third-base side at Kauffman Stadium.

And the Royals were on the fast track to getting their second chance too, before things inexplicably started to slip from the their grasp.

Five outs away from returning to the World Series, the Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista blasted a pitch into the left-field stands off reliever Ryan Madson, turning a two-run difference into a 3-3 tie.

Enter the rescue team.

Davis started the extraction by getting the Royals out of the eighth inning on a popup and a strikeout. But a new challenge surfaced with the rain delay.

Davis surely was supposed to pitch the ninth inning, but now Ned Yost's plans came into question.

Those who know the Royals' penchant for drama had to think the drops falling from the sky were planted. A delay that was originally expected to be 15 minutes grew longer, and the idea of bringing back Davis seemed shaky -- except to Davis.

"He stayed hot by riding the bike, heat packs on him, throwing in the cage," pitching coach Dave Eiland said of Davis. "And he was very convicted that he wanted to go out. If there was any bit of doubt in his voice or with the look in his eye, he was not going back out there."

Anytime Davis saw Eiland during the delay, he muttered two words: "I'm good." Five minutes later: "I'm good." Five minutes after that: "I'm good."

When play resumed, more members of the rescue team surfaced. Lorenzo Cain walked in the eighth inning and was followed by Eric Hosmer, who hit a blooper into the right-field corner. Cain scored, and the rescue crew's most unlikely member surfaced on the play.

Third-base coach Mike Jirschele, who drew attention after not sending Alex Gordon home in the ninth inning of last year's World Series, flashed the green light this time. It wasn't redemption, since Jirschele never thought he made the wrong call last year, but the second chance seemed symbolic.

The Royals had their run, but this is a team with more impossible rallies in the late innings than any reasonable person could stomach, so of course more drama was to come.

Davis struggled upon his return to the mound, giving up a single to Russell Martin. Pinch runner Dalton Pompey stole second, and then third. Kevin Pillar walked and then stole second himself.

Davis is good, but this situation would require more than good. Of course he had the answer in his bag of tricks. He always does.

Davis struck out pinch hitter Dioner Navarro; he struck out Ben Revere, and then he got Josh Donaldson on a ground ball to third base to end it.

It was everything the Royals are about: There was the never-say-die attitude, there was the drama, there was the relief pitching stepping up when it had to, and there was the club's tendency to pick up the man in need. It this case, it was Madson.

"They are just determined," Madson said. "Every time I have given up runs, I can almost guarantee that they have scored the next inning. That is something that I haven't been a part of in a long time and the last time was when we won the World Series in 2008 (at Philadelphia)."

General manager Dayton Moore often gets credit for putting together a talented team that can win in different ways. Perhaps not enough credit is given to the character on the roster he built.

"That's what these guys do," Moore said, standing near the first-base line as the players celebrated nearby. "That's what they are all about. The core group has grown up together in the minor leagues and they have wanted to do something special here in Kansas City for a long time. They are motivated, they are focused, they are determined to win."

Perhaps nobody is more determined and motivated than Davis. The right-hander might not say much, but he says plenty with his performances and a lead-by-example style that was highlighted with his insistence that he was going to go back on the mound after the rain delay.

"Everybody has been picking up each other up for the whole year," Davis said. "It's been pretty steady and consistent with this team as a group, so it has been fun to watch."

The guy who had the best time watching it all was Madson. He can't get enough of how the Royals continue to figure their way out of jams. That this jam was on him made him that much more appreciative.

At the mere mention of Davis' name in the locker room afterward, Madson backed off, needing a second to compose himself.

"I got the chills right now, just thinking about what he did, where he's at in his career," said Madson, a dominating closer in his heyday with the Phillies. "He's the best pitcher I have ever seen throughout this whole season and especially these playoffs. What he did tonight, I have never seen anybody do anything like that. I was just sitting there watching in amazement. I don't know how to react. I was just sitting there watching him do his thing. He's unbelievable."

Because of it, the Royals are going back to the World Series.

"I was just sure something good would happen," Davis said, "and fortunately, it did."