By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ David Price looked in and saw a familiar face.
There was his former Tampa Bay Rays teammate Ben Zobrist (2008-14), standing at home plate of Kauffman Stadium.
They’d faced each other eight times in the past with two hits, including two Zobrist hitless at-bats in Game 2.
The No. 2 hitter in the Kansas City Royals order had bounced to third, struck out and now with the shadows gone he swung at the first pitch from the Blue Jays left-hander, a 92 mph fastball.
He popped the pitch into right and replays showed him slamming the bat down in disgust.
That’s how good Zobrist felt about his at-bat.
It looked as if Zobrist would soon be 0-for-3 on the day, 2-for-9 lifetime and as Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda used to yell during early hitting contests “if that ball ever comes down ... you’re in trouble.”
It appeared as if Price was about to retire his 19th Royals in succession
The Zobrist zonking of the bat wasn’t dramatic or emphatic, but it was another example of how futile K.C. hitters had been against Price: the first pitch single to open the game by Alcides Escobar and then nada ... 18 up, 18 down.
Could the bat slam have sent shock waves into shallow right?
Something happened, supersonic or not.
Sure-handed second baseman Ryan Goins coasted into shallow right as he as done so effortlessly so many times before.
Now, Goins has either been second or third behind centre fielder Kevin Pillar when it comes to making high-light reel, Orlando Hudson-style web gems (Hudson used to make diving plays for the third out and run off with Vernon Wells humming the ESPN theme music and yelling Web Gem).
Goins waved off right fielder Jose Bautista once and then a second time.
And then Goins peeled off, the ball landing safely.
The Zobrist pop up was going to be shown and re-shown but not because of a fielding play. Price’s streak of setting down K.C. hitters was over, but big whoop: man on first, none out, tying run on deck.
Suddenly, the flood gates opened. Back-to-back singles and the Royals sent Eric Hosmer on a steal attempt with Kendrys Morales at the plate. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was able to get one out at first on the Morales grounder. By the Royals sending Hosmer he was unable to get two on the room service double play ball.
Instead of two out and a 3-2 score it was one out, man on second and a 3-2 game.
As he arrived at first, Zobrist thought, “there’s a break. Let’s see if we can keep it going.” He also thought “We need more than one ... and we got it.”
He said he had seldom seen his former teammate as sharp.
“Somebody has to take charge and make the play,” said Zobrist who play second for the Royals and anywhere Joe Maddon’s dart hit the lineup card with Tampa Bay, including right field. “It’s tough when the crowd is that loud, and you think maybe the outfielder is calling you off. I’ve done it before, too.
“It’s a tough, tough break.”
Does the catchable ball which fell have the Jays on crutches or is it one that got away ... like their 14-inning loss to Texas Rangers in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.
The next few days at the Rogers Centre will provide the answer.
DOWN 2-ZIP I: While it is true that the Blue Jays have been down 2-0 before this season -- losing the first two games of the best-of-five ALDS to the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre -- they arrived in Arlington to find No. 3 man Martin Perez and No. 4 tarter Derek Holland, a pair of left-handers. The Jays won both games there and won Game 5 at home.
Now, the Jays come home (rather than heading on the road) but instead they find the Royals No. 1 in Johnny Cueto, who like Marcus Stroman started Game 5. The Game 4 match up sees Jays R.A. Dickey against the Royals fourth man, Chris Young..
DOWN 2-ZIP II: Since the Championship Series moved to a best-of-seven format in 1985, the Royals are the 26th team to take a 2-0 series lead. Of the previous 25 teams, 22 advanced to the World Series. The only exceptions are the 2004 Yankees (losing to the Boston Red Sox), 1985 Blue Jays (Royals) and 1985 Dodgers (Cardinals).
ONE FROM THE ROAD: When Jim Fregosi played for the Rangers at the end of his career, his manager Billy Martin told the infielder he had the next night off. Instead, the manager told Fregosi to go for a round of golf and socialize with his pals -- Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, plus Rogers Maris -- from his New York Yankees days.
Fregosi made up the final member of the foursome, arrived after batting practice, looked at the lineup card only to see his name was on it.
Fregosi reminded Martin he’d promised him the night off.
Martin replied “I lied.”
Fregosi went hitless facing Royals right-hander Paul Splittorff.
HOME GROWNS: We mentioned the other day how Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna were all homegrown products. Former scouting director Andrew Tinnish drafted Stroman and Sanchez, as well as Kevin Pillar and Daniel Norris, who went to Detroit in the Price deal.
Tinnish’s predecessor Jon Lalonde drafted Brett Cecil, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera, Chad Jenkins and Goins.
Current scouting director Brian Parker drafted Jeff Hoffman, sent to the Colorado Rockies in the Tulowitzki trade, Matt Boyd, who went to Detroit as part of the Price deal, Kendall Graveman, part of the Josh Donaldson deal and Nick Wells plus Jake Brentz shipped to the Seattle Mariners in the package to land reliever Mark Lowe.