There were 20,000 Eric Hosmer bobblehead dolls bobbling around Kauffman Stadium. So, sure, it was Hosmer’s booming homer that provided the Royals with a crucial run Saturday night in a 9-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Sometimes, a promotional plan just comes together.
“Any night with a homer is a good night,” Hosmer laughed. “We just had timely hitting all night. What we did tonight was stop their momentum whenever they came up with some runs. The biggest inning in baseball is when you can rebound after they score.”
And umm, Hosmer’s homer wasn’t quite that dramatic, but ...
It was a leadoff rocket in the sixth that extended the Royals’ lead to 5-2. It came after Chicago had scored twice in the top of the inning and served as the necessary cushion after Adam Dunn’s two-run bomb in the eighth against Tim Collins.
The Royals then blew open the game with a four-run burst against Brett Myers in their eighth, and everything started with two outs. Singles by Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler produced one run.
Butler’s RBI single was his third of the game after getting hit in first inning by Chicago starter Jake Peavy, which just might have scrambled Country Breakfast into payback mode.
“It’s good that every at-bat you have that there are runners in scoring position,” Butler said. “That’s a good day regardless.”
Mike Moustakas followed with a three-run drive to right for a no-doubt homer.
“I watched what (Myers) was doing to Billy,” Moustakas said. “He was keeping that fastball down, but Billy ended up getting that big knock. I took a 1-0 changeup for a strike, and then he tried to follow it up with another heater, and I caught up to it.”
That four-spot enabled the Royals to use Louis Coleman, instead of closer Greg Holland, to close out the victory for Bruce Chen. The Royals are 4-1 on a six-game homestand that concludes this afternoon and have 12 victories in their last 18 games.
“We can sit here and talk until we’re blue in the face about how much better our offense has been, but you can’t do anything without starting pitching,” Butler said. “Those guys have taken the bull by the horns in August. We’re putting July behind us.”
Chen, 9-10, delivered the rotation’s fifth straight quality start by handing a 5-2 lead to reliever Kelvin Herrera to start the seventh inning. Chen allowed five hits while striking out five, walking one and throwing 71 of 98 pitches for strikes.
“Pitching is contagious,” he said. “I see all of the other guys doing well, and I say, ‘I can do that.’ I’ve been mixing my fastball and cutter, and I’m able to put more on my fastball so they can’t sit on my off-speed pitches.
“That has been key. I felt like I have everything going. I felt like I was back to my old self.”
Herrera pitched around a one-out single in the seventh before Collins found trouble in the eighth. He yielded a one-out single to Kevin Youkilis — Youk’s 1,000th career hit. Dunn followed with a booming two-run homer — the 400th homer of his career.
The lead was down to one run — the one provided by Hosmer’s homer.
Aaron Crow replaced Collins and struck out Paul Konerko, who hit a two-run homer earlier in the game against Chen. Crow ended the inning by striking out Alex Rios before the Royals roughed up Myers.
Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise. The Royals had rocked Myers for five runs in the ninth inning exactly two months earlier — June 18 — while he was pitching for Houston and trying to close out a 9-2 lead.
That comeback fell short. This explosion was a knockout.
“We got five there,” Butler said, “and we got four tonight. He’s a pretty good pitcher. Some guys struggle with certain teams in a certain year, and who knows why? Next series, he could come out and dominate us.”
The Royals built leads of 1-0, 3-0, 4-0 and 5-2 against Peavy, who allowed five runs and nine hits in 51/3 innings. Two runs were unearned; the White Sox committed four errors.
Peavy fell to 9-9 overall, including 0-3 against the Royals.
The Royals finished with 15 hits, including four by Escobar, who boosted his average to .309. Gordon went three for five with three RBIs, which suggests that, hey, maybe he can produce from the third spot in the lineup.
Gordon’s RBI double in the first opened the scoring. He delighted in playing through an intermittent drizzle through the early innings that left him, and several teammates, covered in mud from aggressive play.
“I like how we came out right off the bat,” he said. “Guys getting dirty from running all over the place. I was the dirtiest early, but by the end it was Moose and Esky. It was fun to see, and I think it fired some guys up.”
Butler went three for four with three RBIs. Hosmer had his bobblehead blast. Moustakas contributed an RBI single in a two-run third prior to his three-run jailbreak blast.
“That’s a good team over there,” Moustakas said. “They’re in first place for a reason. We’re just playing good ball right now. Those guys (Peavy and Myers) have been good for a while. That’s why this game is crazy …”
The Royals scored first for the eighth time in their last 10 days and went six for 13 with runners in scoring position. Crunch any number. There wasn’t much not to like.
“We got big hits with runners in scoring position,” Butler said. “That’s the key to the game every day. We hit when it counted.”