CLEVELAND — Extended losing streaks, as the Royals long ago learned, take on a life of their own. Sort of like those weeds in your lawn that refuse to die. And, oh, did this one die hard.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
The Royals watched their bullpen cough up a late lead while their attack did virtually nothing before Tony Abreu delivered a two-out RBI single in the 14th inning for the winning run in a 7-6 victory.
Kelvin Herrera escaped a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the bottom of the inning for his third save, and, finally, the Royals celebrated the end of a six-game skid.
“There were five or six times today when I thought we were going to win,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “Then I thought we were going to lose. Then win. It was a roller-coaster.
“It was one of those games, late in the year, when you can tell guys are tired. Swings are dragging. Usually what wins those games is somebody bleeding one in, and Tony was able to bleed one in there.”
Mike Moustakas opened the 14th with a four-pitch walk from left-hander Scott Maine. After Francoeur and Brayan Peña struck out, Moustakas moved to second on a wild pitch.
Abreu then served a single into center that fell in front of a charging Michael Brantley. It was only the Royals’ third hit, all singles, since scoring six runs in the third inning.
“Fourteen innings, and I had no base-hits (in five previous at-bats),” Abreu said. “So I needed a base-hit.”
So did the Royals. Vin Mazzaro, 4-3, got the victory by pitching two scoreless innings.
The Indians sure didn’t go quietly against Herrera.
Ezequiel Carrera led off with a bunt single when Moustakas fumbled the pickup. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a single to right that moved Carrera to second. Jason Kipnis drew a walk that loaded the bases with no outs.
That was the 12th walk issued by a Royals pitcher.
Herrera retired Carlos Santana on a fly to short left. Carrera didn’t challenge Alex Gordon’s arm.
“I was so close,” Gordon said. “I caught it and looked at him, and he didn’t even fake (going home).”
Lonnie Chisenhall then lined out to Francoeur in right — again not deep enough for Carrera to try for the plate.
“It’s a tough deal,” Francoeur said. “You don’t want to play too shallow and just let him hit an easy pop fly over your head. But with Kelvin pitching, you figure it’s going to be a line drive or a bleeder. So I was playing in. Once I caught it, I knew he’s not tagging.”
That permitted the Royals to drop their infield back to normal depth. Herrera ended the game by retiring Casey Kotchman on a grounder to first. Herrera exulted after taking the throw from Butler for the out.
“I got into trouble,” Herrera said, “but I always trust my stuff until the end. But that line drive to Francoeur, I thought, ‘Oh, no, the game’s over.’ But then he caught it, and I was still alive.”
So ended a 4-hour, 52-minute … victory.
It was a lot harder than it should have been.
The Royals watched their bullpen implode in the late innings, with much of the damage resulting from an inability to throw strikes.
Aaron Crow issued two walks in the eighth before Tim Collins yielded a two-run single with two outs to Choo. And Greg Holland walked three hitters in failing to protect a two-run lead in the ninth. Asdrubal Cabrera tied the game with a two-out, two-run double.
“Our bullpen has been doing it all year,” Gordon said. “It just had one of those games where it fell apart. But also give our bullpen credit for keeping us in the game for 14 innings.”
The Royals built a 6-1 lead by scoring six runs with two outs in the third inning. After that, squat. Just two singles until Abreu’s game-winner.
The Indians missed a big chance after Mazzaro started the 12th inning with a four-pitch walk to Kipnis. That was the 11th walk (of 12) by a Royals pitcher.
Mazzaro retired Santana on a fly to center before Chisenhall grounded a single into center that moved Kipnis to third. Kotchman grounded into a double play.
The victory not only snapped a six-game skid. It permitted the Royals to match last year’s victory total, 71, with four games remaining and clinch third place in the American League Central.
That might not sound like much, but the Royals haven’t finished higher than fourth in the five-team division since a third-place finish in 2003.
The Royals positioned themselves for a skid-snapping victory by scoring six times in the third inning. They did it all with two outs against Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez, who was nursing a 1-0 lead at the time.
Irving Falu singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Gordon walked. Billy Butler delivered an RBI single. Salvy Perez loaded the bases with an infield single. Moustakas hit a two-run double. And Francoeur crushed a three-run homer.
The Royals, at that point, turned their bullpen after weathering two extended innings from rookie right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who threw 65 pitches but yielded just one run.
“Sixty-five pitches in two innings,” manager Ned Yost said, “that’s too much for a young pitcher. This late in the year, it’s too much. I’m not sending him back out.”
Nate Adcock and Francisley Bueno nursed the game into the eighth and presented Crow with a 6-2 lead. But the Indians loaded the bases against Crow by sandwiching a single with two walks.
Collins then coughed up a two-run single to Choo but struck out Kipnis with runners at first and third. That got the game to Holland, who blew a save for just the second time in 17 chances since becoming the Royals’ closer.
Holland began the ninth with a four-pitch walk to Santana, who went to second when Chisenhall flicked a single into short left field.
The runners moved into scoring position when Kotchman put down a sacrifice bunt. Pinch-hitter Cord Phelps struck out on three pitches. Holland fell behind 2-0 on Cabrera before working the count full.
Cabrera then served a two-run double into right center. Holland then issued an intentional walk to Brantley before loading the bases with an unintentional walk to Carrera. But Holland got the game to the 10th inning by retiring Choo on a fly to center.
“We did a good job,” Yost said, “of outlasting them.”
To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.