KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Eric Hosmer laced a single down the rightfield line Friday night, Lorenzo Cain came flying around second as if late for a job interview. A trip to the World Series was hanging in the balance. It was the moment Mike Jirschele had been waiting for.
Maybe not as long as everyone in this once-again baseball-crazed city thought — not back to Game 7 of the World Series last October when Jirschele, the Royals' third-base coach, threw up a stop sign for Alex Gordon, who stayed anchored at third base as Madison Bumgarner got the final out and the Giants became World Series champions.
But Jirschele had waited long enough.
Having spent 13 years playing in the minors and 22 coaching there before getting to the majors last season, Jirschele understood the value of patience. So when Jirschele observed Jose Bautista, Toronto's strong-armed rightfielder, earlier in the series turn his back to home plate as he wheeled around to throw to second base, he took note.
On that play, it was Kendrys Morales, the DH, running.
There was no need then to make a reckless decision, the same as last October when sending Gordon might have rescued the Royals — but more than likely would have gotten him thrown out by 20 feet.
With Cain in the equation, though, the calculation went from rash to rational.
"We were waiting for that situation where a ball hit down the rightfield line, if I have speed coming into third and I see Bautista come up and make that long throw to second, I'm going to go ahead and wheel him," Jirschele said.
When Cain saw Jirschele furiously windmilling his right arm, his eyes widened and his stride lengthened.
"When I saw him sending me, I was definitely shocked," Cain said. "But I trust him to the fullest."
By the time shortstop Troy Tulowitzki gathered the throw and, with a poor grip, skidded his throw home, there was no chance of getting Cain, who slid across home plate, popping up with what would become the winning run in the 4-3 Royals win that put them back in the World Series.
"It was going to have to be a perfect throw," Jirschele said.
The play was somewhat reminiscent of the 1946 World Series, which the Cardinals won when Enos Slaughter scored from first in Game 7 on a hit-and-run single that Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky hesitated for an instant to throw home.
Cain's daring dash and Jirschele's enterprising decision were fitting touchstones for the Royals on their return to the World Series. The team remained largely intact from last season, though the handful of newcomers have loomed large in the playoffs. Former Ray Ben Zobrist hit a solo homer Friday and Johnny Cueto, also acquired at the end of July, was superb in the Division Series winner-take-all Game 5 victory over Houston. Morales has four homers and 10 RBIs during the playoffs.
"We knew it was going to be hard coming into the year," Cain said. "It left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, losing the World Series the way we did. But we stuck together and we're back where we want to be."
METS SET ROTATION: Right-hander Matt Harvey will pitch the World Series opener at Kansas City, followed by right-hander Jacob deGrom in Game 2 then rookie right-hander Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz in New York.
Mets vs. Royals
(TV: All games Ch. 13)
Tuesday: at Kansas City, 8
Wednesday: at Kansas City, 8
Friday: at New York, 8
Saturday: at New York, 8
Nov. 1: at New York, 8 *
Nov. 3: at Kansas City, 8 *
Nov. 4: at Kansas City, 8 *
* If necessary