Nursing a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning, Royals fans watched in horror as a glimpse of the “same old Royals” appeared right in front of them. The Tigers had just beaten the Pirates, meaning Kansas City needed a win to stay in first place. Jarrod Dyson lost a crucial battle with the sun, dropping a seemingly routine fly ball that allowed the tying run to score. In the next at bat, Dyson watched as Alberto Callapso singled home the go-ahead run.
If fans were truly watching those Royals, they would have rolled over and suffered a gut-wrenching loss with little fight.
Fortunately, it’s becoming more and more apparent that these Royals are much different.
Dyson made up for his error by driving home the game-tying run in a huge five-run seventh inning, leading the Royals to a 7-3 victory over the Oakland A’s on Thursday afternoon. Kansas City battled back to take the four-game series against the best team in baseball, earning their 18th win in their last 22 games.
In what’s been a three-week stretch with plenty of comfortable wins, Thursday’s tense game provided fans with a playoff-like feeling.
Both teams plated runs via sacrifice flies early on. In the fourth inning, Mike Moustakas came through with a two-out RBI single to give the Royals a 2-1 lead.
Starter James Shields, coming off of a four-hit shutout, overcame a high pitch count to settle into another solid start. He retired seven straight hitters before Stephen Vogt reached with a two-out single in the sixth inning. It was then when Shields got Josh Reddick to hit into what seemed like a routine fly ball out, until Dyson lost it in the sun. Vogt scored all the way from first on what was officially scored as an RBI triple. In the next at-bat, Callapso blooped a single into right field to give the A’s a 3-2 lead.
In the month of August, Shields has allowed five extra-base hits in 23 innings. Four of them are by Reddick, who broke up Shields’ perfect game with a home run in the sixth inning back on August 3.
It was a flashback into May of 2013, when Shields would put forth solid performance after solid performance, only to receive the loss due to poor run support or defensive collapses. In all, he allowed seven hits and three earned runs, though it’s quite possible the scoring on the Reddick triple will be changed to an error in the coming days. He struck out five A’s while walking one.
The Royals appeared to have a great opportunity to tie the game in the sixth inning when Alcides Escobar reached with a bunt single, and the throw sailed down the first base line. Escobar jogged to second base and appeared to be in scoring position with the heart of the Royals’ order coming up.
However, home plate umpire Hal Gibson called Escobar out, claiming that he was running outside of the baseline to first base. Replay showed that while Escobar was running on the fringe of the infield grass, he didn’t appear to impact the wild throw. Billy Butler would promptly single two at bats later, which likely would have tied the game had Escobar still been at second base. This ignited a shower of boos from the crowd of nearly 21,000.
In the seventh, Kansas City sparked another opportunity. A single and a double by Erik Kratz and Christian Colon put two runners in scoring position with one out. Ned Yost called on pinch hitter Lorenzo Cain to run for Kratz, who was immediately almost picked off third base by reliever Ryan Cook.
After an intense replay, Cain was called safe, and up to the plate trotted Dyson. He fouled off four straight pitches before lining a sharp single through the right side of the infield, plating Cain to tie the game at 3. Just like that, Shields was off the hook for a loss.
The Royals were just starting, though. Nori Aoki came through with a first-pitch ringing triple down the right field line, scoring both Colon and Dyson to give Kansas City a 5-3 lead. Later in the inning, Butler would plate two more runners with a two-out single.
“We laid it all on the line,” Dyson said after the game.
Francisley Bueno, Aaron Crow, and Wade Davis nailed down the seventh and eighth innings. With a four run lead, Yost turned to Jason Frasor for the ninth frame, who quickly worked into trouble by putting two on with only one out. Now an save situation, Yost called on Greg Holland to finish the job, and the All-Star closer got the final two outs to end the game.
Crow (6-1) earned the win. Holland earned his A.L.-leading 36th save of the season. Jeff Samardzija (5-9) took the loss for the A’s; he allowed four runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings.
On August 1, the Royals were entering a “gauntlet” of 13 games. 10 of them would be against winning teams, with seven being against the mighty Oakland A’s. Kansas City responded with a statement-making 11-2 record, vaulting them to first place in the A.L. Central in the process.
The Royals will now play 18 straight games against teams with losing records, beginning with a four-game series in Minnesota on Thursday night. Danny Duffy (7-10, 2.57 ERA) will take on Ricky Nolasco (5-7, 5.90).
Kansas City has shown that they can play with anyone after winning 5 of 7 against the A’s. They now must avoid a letdown against losing teams as we enter the homestretch of the season.
After the game, Yost told the media that Eric Hosmer won’t swing a bat until at least another week. Hosmer was placed on the DL after fracturing his hand on July 30, and was expected to miss between 3-6 weeks.