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Blue Jays vs. Royals ALCS Game 6: 3 reasons Kansas City is headed back to World Series

Lorenzo Cain's mad dash, scoring from first base on a single in the eighth inning, provided the winning run for the Royals on Friday night.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals earned a return trip to the World Series with a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

The Royals captured the best-of-seven series, four games to two.

After a 41-minute rain delay in the middle of the eighth inning, the Royals rallied against Jays closer Roberto Osuna. The go-ahead run was delivered thanks to the speed and aggression of Lorenzo Cain, who scored from first base on a single into the right field corner by Eric Hosmer.

Wade Davis, who recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning before the rain delay, finished things off with a scoreless ninth inning, stranding the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, putting the Royals back in the World Series for the second consecutive season.

Kansas City pulled ahead early with solo shots by Ben Zobrist in the first inning and Mike Moustakas in the second, the latter aided by a fan who appeared to reach over the right field wall, though upon review the home run call was upheld.

Jose Bautista hit a home run in the fourth inning to pull the Blue Jays within a run. That was the only tally allowed by Royals starter Yordano Ventura, who pitched into the sixth inning and struck out five.

David Price settled down after the two home runs and struck out eight in his 6⅔ innings. But the Royals added an insurance run in the seventh inning, and he appeared headed for an eighth defeat in eight career postseason starts before Baustista struck again.

Bautista hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning, his second of the night, off Ryan Madson to even the score.

The Royals will move on to face the New York Mets in the World Series, beginning Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, where Kansas City was 51-30 during the regular season and 5-1 during the playoffs.

3 reasons KC is headed back to the WS

Middle infield set the tone

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Zobrist wreaked havoc throughout the series against the Jays, igniting Kansas City from the top two spots in the batting order. The light-hitting Escobar hit just .257/.293/.320 on the season yet hit leadoff for the Royals 131 times.

It paid off for inscrutable manager Ned Yost in the ALCS, when Escobar hit .478 (11-for-23) with two doubles and a triple, scoring six runs and driving in five.

Zobrist, acquired from Oakland on July 28, has reached base in 10 of 11 postseason games, hitting .326/.375/.545 with four doubles, two home runs, and a team-leading 10 runs scored.

The pen is mightier

Even without an injured Greg Holland, the Royals' bullpen has been a great strength this postseason. Kansas City relievers in 11 games this October have a 2.85 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 11 walks in 41 innings, including a 2.66 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 23⅔ innings during the ALCS.

Royals relievers struck out more batters (59) in 41 innings this postseason than did Kansas City starters (55) in 55 innings.

Power and offense

The Blue Jays were far and away the top offense in baseball during the regular season, scoring 127 runs more than the next-best major league team, and they led the majors with 232 home runs as well. The Royals were no slouch on offense, finishing seventh in MLB with 4.47 runs scored per game, but over a run fewer than Toronto. Kansas City's 139 home runs were 93 fewer than the Blue Jays.

But in the ALCS, the Royals hit more home runs (seven) than the Jays (six), and outscored them 38-26. Kansas City has 15 home runs in 11 playoff games so far this October.

This is not a new phenomenon for the Royals, who were dead last in baseball with 95 home runs in 2014, then hit 11 in 15 postseason games, lasting all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before ultimately falling.

This year, the Royals have a chance to finish the job.