By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ The stage was set.
The Blue Jays had the incumbent MVP at the plate.
The Kansas City Royals had their closer on the mound who went an hour between pitches due to a rain delay.
The Jays had two runners aboard.
Wade Davis retired Josh Donaldson on a sharply hit grounder to third baseman Mike Moutsakas. Eric Hosmer caught the low throw jumped into the air with a 4-3 win to wrap up the best-of-seven American League Championship Series in Game 6.
And cue the celebrations ... the Kansas City Royals were going back to the World Series.
The season, the Blue Jays best season in 22 years, ended with Dalton Pompey representing the winning run racing run, with Kevin Pillar running in front of Moustakas ... so close and yet so far.
The Royals scored in the bottom of the ninth when Roberto Osuna walked Lorenzo Cain and Hosmer singled into the right field corner and Jose Bautista came up throwing to second. Cain never broke stride.
THIS DATE IN HISTORY: At 11:37 pm, on Oct. 23, 1993, Joe Carter hit a three-run homer to left field a team, a city and a country jumped for joy as the Blue Jays repeated as World Series champs.
At 10:49 pm, 22 years later, Bautista hit a two-run homer to left tying the score with one out in the eighth to tie the score setting off similar celebrations from Sorrel River Siding, N.B. to Salmon Arm, B.C.
And 13 pitches later -- following a 45 minute rain delay -- the Royals had re-gained the lead.
YAPPING AWAY: Royals starter Yordany Ventura chirped Jays Edwin Encarnacion after a sixth-inning double chased him from the game. And then Ventura barked at Toronto first base coach Tim Leiper.
Tweeted one Royals fan: “Tim Leiper needs to learn his place. His job is to hold the batting gloves, shin guards, and cups ... Not to talk trash to the opposing SP.”
GO-GO GRANNY: When Ryan Goins left Kauffman Stadium after Game 2 people were pointing at him.
He was the guy.
The guy who bailed on Ben Zobrist’s pop up in shallow right ending David Price’s consecutive string of setting down 18 hitters in succession.
When Goins left the field after Game 3 fans were pointing again.
He was the guy.
The guy who hit a two-run, single off Johnny Cueto to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead and later homered against reliever Kris Medlen at the Rogers Centre. Afterwards he gave maybe the best interview of the post-season looking into the camera and saying:
“I knew I’d be OK, my grandmother phoned me and told me that she loved me,” said Goins, his voice quivering a little.
So, after Game 5 we asked Goins for his grandmother’s phone number. He provided the digits. We asked if he could please call his grandmother to warn her a handsome, young ball scribe without grey hair would be calling.
We called Evelyn Cropp in Austin, Tex.
Ah, we might have been better off phoning Albert Belle, Steve Carlton or George Bell during his “I only speak to Ken Fidken and Garf Woolsey (the way George pronounced their names),” days early in 1987.
Goins forgot to call.
“Who is this? No really who is this?” grandma kept asking.
I kept answering.
“No, no you sound like someone trying to play a practical joke of me,” said grandma.
We talked to Goins after he spoke to his grandma.
Nope, grandma did not want to be interviewed.
We knew Goins was a fiesty, talented, second baseman, now we know where he gets some of his traits.
MEMORIES: Kansas City Royals scout Art Stewart saw an old familiar face Friday night and said “this is true to form: the Royals and the Blue Jays in October.”
Before Game 6 of the American League Championship Series Friday night at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals Hall of Famer thought back to Game 7 of the 1985 ALCS at Exhibition Stadium.
Stewart signed more than 70 players who made majors including Brian McRae, Mike Macfarlane, Tom Gordon, Bo Jackson, Kevin Appier, Mike Sweeney, Johnny Damon, Joe Randa and Carlos Beltran.
For Game 7, Stewart was seated near the Royals dugout alongside owners Ewing Kauffman and Avron Fogelman, plus general manager John Schuerholz. Jim Sundberg tripled off the top of the right field fence in the sixth for a 6-1 lead.
“We’re sitting there in the seventh and a streaker carrying a Canadian flag runs across the outfield,” recalled Stewart. “Fogelman turns to John and says ‘John, John, do something, stop this right now.’”
Of course. the crack security guards were on the case zigging when the streaker zagged until finally catching him before the park was re-named Exhibitionist Stadium.
It was not as it Schuerholz could do anything if he wanted to or if it was his own stadium.
“And then later, in the ninth a drunk fell out of the field seats onto the warning track so we had another delay with Dan Quisenberry on the mound,” said Stewart.
The final three innings fans were leaving headed for the exit, wishing the Royals travelling party good luck in the World Series.
“Fogelman worried that they were going to jinx us by wishing us luck,” Stewart said. “So, I asked some one ‘why are you guys leaving?’
“And they told me it was opening night of the hockey season at Maple Leaf Gardens.”
Actually, the 1985-86 Leafs opened in Boston with a loss, lost 4-0 at home to the Quebec Nordiques, beat the Chicago Black Hawks 5-1 and on Oct. 16 -- the same night of Game 7 of the 1985 ALCS -- lost 6-5 in overtime to the Washington Capitals.
While it was the Leafs second home game, the elimination of the Jays signals the start of the NHL season in some homes.
TAKING INSTRUCTION: Outfielder Anthony Alford, third baseman Vlad Guerrero, Jr. and right-hander Conner Greene were the most impressive Blue Jays at instructional league camp which wound up this week at the Bobby Mattick Training Center.
Alford has played for 13 consecutive months now after quitting football. He had 25 doubles, seven triples, four homers and 35 RBIs while hitting .298 in 107 games at Lansing and Dunedin with an .820 OPS.
The recently-signed Guerrero was thought to be a right fielder, but roving minor league instructor Mike Mordecai and minor league boss Doug Davis think his best position is at third.
Greene started the season at class-A Lansing and finished at double-A New Hampshire, combining to go 12-7, with a 3.54 ERA in 26 starts, walking 39 and fanning 115 in 132 1/3 innings.
NOT A LITTLE LAMBE: The Jays scouts who covered the New York Mets in their National League Championship Series over the Chicago Cubs were Bryan Lambe and Steve Connelly.
Lambe is a scouting legend with the New York Mets for his part in drafting Matt Harvey as a national cross checker and he has a well-earned reputation as a tough task master from his days coaching in the Detroit Tigers organization.
Lambe was a coach at class-A Lakeland under manager Jim Leyland in 1978 when the Tigers No. 1 pick outfielder Kirk Gibson was making his presence felt both on the Florida State League diamonds and in the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Gibson and another player were involved in an argument when Lambe told the outfielder to “knock it off.” Gibson told Lambe to take a hike or something like that. A subsequent scuffle ensued. The coach, a former 5-foot-10, 175-pound, state wrasslin’ champ pinned the 6-foot-3, 220-pound outfielder with a wrestling hold.
Gibson was taken down the way Ricky (The Dragon) Steamboat used to take down more physical opponents.
Tiger general manager Bill Lajoie ordered a cone of silence over the whole event for fear that if Tigers president Jim Campbell found out that a class-A coach had pinned the club’s No. 1 pick ... the coach would be fired.
Leyland was promoted to triple-A Evansville at the end of the season.
At the organization diner at the winter meetings in December Tigers Campbell asked Lakeland management who should manage in 1979, the answer was:
“We want the guy who put Kirk Gibson in his place, the guy who pinned him in the clubhouse.”
Lambe was fired the next day by the Tigers. He has been in the game since 1970 as a minor league player (1970-76), coach (Tigers, 1977-78) and scout with the MLB Scouting Bureau (1980-85), Texas Rangers from (1985-2000), Arizona Diamondbacks (2001-04) and Mets (2005-11) until he joined the Jays.
Lambe knows his stuff, comparing Matt Harvey to another Justin Verlander. The Mets selected Harvey seventh over-all in 2010 from the University of North Carolina.
NUMBERS: Due to their 93-69 regular-season record the Jays will pick 26th next June. The Jays will get three picks in the first two rounds: 26th; 57th (for not signing second round pick Brady Singer, the 56th pick last year) and their own second-round pick, 62nd over-all.
LOUP AVAILABLE: Lefty Aaron Loup was back with the Blue Jays for Game 6. Before Game 3 of the American League Division Series in Arlington, Tex. his wife Leighann’s water broke only 26 weeks into her term.
Leighann was rushed to a Dallas hospital and Aaron followed along as a golf cart sped him to a waiting car.
Loup returned to the Jays but before Game 4 of the ALCS he headed for the airport and two-pound, two-ounce Wyatt Aaron Loup arrived shortly after he arrived in Dallas. Wyatt is in an neonatal intensive-care unit.
CHHHH-ANGES: Don Mattingly should have been wearing a T-shirt: “My owners spent $314 million on team payroll and all I got was this shirt.” Mattingly and the Dodgers parted ways this week although he’s made the playoffs the past three seasons. The Dodgers won 92 games this year, 94 in 2014 and 92 in 2013. They have fired more than 30 pro, area and international scouts as well as those who some in player development. Said one former Dodger “It’s like we lost 94 games last year and 92 this year, instead of winning 94 and 92.”
Is it Mattingly’s fault Clayton Kershaw pitches like country singer Sammy Kershaw in post season play? Or the fact $314 million isn’t enough to buy a bullpen? Or that Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, 2/5ths of the rotation, combined for four starts this season?