KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jose Bautista gave the Toronto Blue Jays a chance to keep their season alive with two swings of his mighty bat, only to squander it with one throw from his strong right arm.
The result? The Kansas City Royals are returning to the World Series for the second straight year, while the Blue Jays are headed home after a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.
“I was able to come through twice,” Bautista said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”
Bautista became the first Blue Jay in postseason history to hit two homers in a game when he followed his solo shot in the fourth inning with a tying, two-run homer in the eighth on Friday night. But it was his throw from right field in the bottom half of the inning, just after a 45-minute rain delay, that allowed the Royals to score the go-ahead run.
Lorenzo Cain had reached base with a hard-earned walk off Roberto Osuna, and Eric Hosmer rapped a single down the line. Bautista fielded it cleanly and fired to second base, thinking that Hosmer might try to stretch the hit into a double.
The longer throw gave Cain the time he needed to score from first base.
“I had a feeling Bautista was going to come up and throw to second base. He’s been doing it,” Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele said. “As soon I saw him release the ball to second, I had Lorenzo coming in. I knew we were going to take a shot at it.”
Bautista thought there was enough time to throw to second and still keep Cain at third.
“I was wrong,” he said.
Toronto nearly bailed him out. Russell Martin and walked Kevin Pillar reached base off Royals closer Wade Davis to start the ninth before pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro struck out. After stolen bases put runners on second and third, Davis struck out Ben Revere, then got Josh Donaldson on a bouncer to third, sending the Royals scurrying on the field in a wild celebration.
They will open the World Series on Tuesday night against the New York Mets, trying to do one win better than they did last year. In their first trip to the Fall Classic in 29 years, they lost in Game 7 to San Francisco with the tying run standing 90 feet from home.
For the Blue Jays, it was a frustrating ending to a late-season surge that ended their own postseason drought dating to 1993. They had rallied from a 2-0 series deficit against Texas in the divisional round, then staved off elimination against the Royals in Game 5 in Toronto.
They simply couldn’t win their fifth straight elimination game.
“They made a run at it,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “I really couldn’t be more proud of our guys. They laid it out every day. They’re great competitors and a fun bunch.”
Alex Rios had an RBI single in the seventh, but only after two marvelous plays by Toronto limited the damage. Ben Revere made a leaping grab at the fence to rob Salvador Perez of a two-run shot to left, and second baseman Ryan Goins made a sliding grab to rob Alex Gordon of a single.