Rally puts Royals right back into series

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On the ropes in the game and the series, the Kansas City Royals awakened Friday with a victory that evened their best-of-5 American League Division Series against the Houston Astros at a game each.

With the club in danger of going down 2-0 and with a date Sunday at Houston against Dallas Keuchel, the Royals pulled a 5-4 victory out of their collective hat when they had been staring at a 4-1 deficit in the third inning.

Eric Hosmer never did look comfortable at the plate in the sixth inning in what turned into the day's most clutch at-bat. He was down in the count 0-2 against reliever Oliver Perez after flailing at two pitches out of the strike zone. But in defense mode, he was able to flip a pitch into left field for an RBI single to get the Royals within a run.

Later in the frame, Salvador Perez drew a bases-loaded walk against reliever Josh Fields that tied the score. Ben Zobrist gave the Royals the lead in the seventh with his RBI single off Will Harris.

Keuchel still looms Sunday, but even if the Royals fall, they have Game 4 on Monday with a chance to bring the series back to Kansas City for the potential deciding game Wednesday.

Thumbs up: Zobrist has turned himself into the Royals' biggest midseason acquisition, over Johnny Cueto. His seventh-inning go-ahead single was his biggest contribution so far to his new club. With his ability to play left field while Alex Gordon recovered and then play second base for an injured Omar Infante, Zobrist's versatility was exactly what the Royals needed. While his professional approach was lauded when he first arrived, his playoff experience is what the Royals are loving now.

Thumbs down: In the postseason for the Royals, Cueto really wasn't much different than he was in the regular season. Brought over in a trade from the Cincinnati Reds to lead the rotation, the right-hander has not yet been dynamic, although he was much improved over his final four regular-season starts. In a game in which the Royals were looking to get a jump start on the Astros, Cueto gave up at least one run in each of his first three innings en route to allowing four over six innings.

What's next: Royals starter Edinson Volquez gets the unenviable task of squaring off with Keuchel for Sunday's Game 3 in Houston. That would be the same Keuchel that was 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA over 18 home starts. Thanks to Friday's rally, a loss to Keuchel wouldn't end it, only put things into back-to-the-wall mode, which doesn't seem to bother the Royals one bit.