In Ned Yost's mind, there was no way Eric Hosmer was not going to get a hit. It simply wasn't an option.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning on Monday, Melky Cabrera scorched a line drive that looked like it was headed for the hole at short. Instead, Toronto third baseman Mike McCoy dove to his left and snagged the ball for an out. If there was any justice in the world, Yost thought, Hosmer would get a hit.
So, when the rookie first baseman came up with two outs, it came as no surprise to his manager when he lined the first pitch he saw into right-center field, scoring Chris Getz and giving the Royals their ninth walk-off win of the season, 3-2, over the Blue Jays.
"I just knew Hos was going to get a hit," Yost said. "I said, 'There's no way that we're not winning this game in this inning here, there's just no way that that's going to happen.'"
The Royals struggled though the first nine innings, scoring just two runs. However, their pitching held strong, allowing Kansas City time to break a 2-2 tie.
Getz started the 11th inning with a bunt single and Brayan Pena ended up hitting a ball through the hole into left after entering the at-bat looking to bunt. Alcides Escobar moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt and Alex Gordon was intentionally walked to fill first base.
After Cabrera was robbed, it was up to Hosmer to try to end the game.
"They were kind of pitching backwards to me tonight, so I just told myself to zone in, look for a certain zone," Hosmer said. "He left the curveball up a little bit, I just got the barrel out and got the run in."
Lost in the late-inning heroics were excellent starts by Kansas City's Felipe Paulino and Toronto's Brandon Morrow.
Paulino, making his second start for the Royals, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It was promptly broken up by a Jayson Nix single to left, but the right-hander ended up going 6 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits and two runs, with only one being earned.
"He's just been dynamite," Yost said. "On the attack with great stuff and manages his pitch count well. He's been quite a find for us so far."
Morrow had the Royals befuddled in his six innings, as Kansas City got just two hits off the right-hander. The only run he allowed was unearned, as Hosmer scored on a Mike Aviles triple in the fourth inning after reaching on a throwing error. Morrow struggled with command through his first two innings, throwing just 18 strikes against 19 balls and walking two.
"The first couple of innings were shaky," Morrow said. "If I hadn't had the command problems in the first couple of innings, I would have been able to go back out."
Paulino would give up his earned run in the seventh inning. Juan Rivera smacked a ball to third that took a weird hop over a diving Aviles at third. He would advance to third on a J.P. Arencibia grounder past Hosmer, who was holding Rivera on at first. Aaron Hill got an RBI on a ground ball to short to put Toronto up, 2-1.
Again though, it was Hosmer to the rescue.
Kansas City loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh with a Matt Treanor single and two straight walks from Toronto reliever Mark Rzepczynski. Hosmer came up with two outs and took four straight pitches, all balls, and just like that, it was 2-2.
Rzepczynski faced three batters, walking all of them, and of his 13 pitches, only one was a strike.
Before the seventh inning, Hosmer had struck out swinging twice and reached on an error in three plate appearances. From the seventh inning on, he was 2-for-2 with two RBIs. The rookie also extended his hitting streak to eight games.
"We keep talking about it; he's a kid that makes adjustments," Yost said. "You won't see him doing the same things at-bat, after at-bat, after at-bat. He comes in, he knows what he needs to do and makes the adjustments to be successful."
Greg Holland and Aaron Crow combined to pitch 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and were followed up by Joakim Soria, who went two innings, with one batter reaching on a throwing error. After the game, Yost said Soria will move back to his normal role as closer, with interim ninth-inning man Crow returning to a setup role.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Royals, who were swept by the Twins over the weekend. While Paulino's resurgence and Soria's return to form were clear bright spots, it was Hosmer who had the biggest impact.
Three years ago tonight, Hosmer got the good news that he was taken third overall by Kansas City. Flash forward to 2011 and he's knocked in his first career walk-off hit.
"Yeah, it feels awesome," Hosmer said. "Anytime you win a ballgame, it feels great. We had a little rough stretch there and for us to get this win, it hopefully will change momentum for us. We've just got to keep rolling."