HOUSTON — Almost out of time and out of the playoffs, the Royals realized they needed more than a big home run.
They needed a lot of hits — and maybe a little help, too.
The defending AL champions saved their season Monday. They took advantage when Astros shortstop Carlos Correa couldn't handle a deflected grounder that might have been a double-play ball, rallying for five runs in the eighth inning to beat Houston 9-6 and forcing their AL Division Series to a decisive Game 5.
"We always feel that we're still in games, and we still have a chance," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "That's the mentality for this whole entire team. It's never quit, and the character we showed (Monday). That's what a championship ballclub does."
Correa homered twice, doubled, singled and drove in four runs for Houston, which took a 6-2 lead into the eighth. But a tough error charged to the 21-year-old rookie keyed the Royals' comeback to even the series.
"I missed it. That's what happened," Correa said. "I wish I was perfect. I wish I could do everything perfect, but I'm not. I'm human."
The Astros' meltdown spoiled a stellar performance by former Jesuit standout Lance McCullers Jr. The rookie right-hander, making his first career postseason start, pitched 61/3 innings and left with a 3-2 lead.
"Everyone that watched that game, everybody that was a part of that game knows how difficult it is to feel like that game was closing in our favor and then have it not go our way," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "But it's big boy sport. We'll adjust, and we will be ready to play."
Kansas City opened the eighth with five straight singles off relievers Will Harris and Tony Sipp, with RBI hits by Lorenzo Cain and Hosmer making it 6-4 and leaving the bases loaded with no outs.
"Obviously, we're pretty late in the game right there and down by four, so not one guy can get us back in this game. So we got to do whatever we can to keep the line moving," Hosmer said.
Kendrys Morales followed with a hard one-bouncer off Sipp's glove. The ball took two more hops and got past the top of Correa's mitt, rolling into center as two scored to tie it at 6.
"Just a weird spin on the ball and tough play," Sipp said.