Royals 11, Diamondbacks 10
Even on a day when the bullpen blew two late leads, the Royals found an answer Saturday afternoon when George Kottaras delivered a two-out, walk-off RBI single in a 11-10 victory over Arizona at Surprise Stadium.
Jarrod Dyson started the winning rally with a one-out single against Diamondbacks reliever Eddie Bonine in the ninth inning. A steal and a David Lough grounder to second put Dyson at third with two outs.
Bonine jumped ahead of Kottaras 0-2 before just missing with three pitches off the outside of the plate. The full-count offering was closer, and Kottaras peppered the ball through the left side of the infield.
If we were on defense, Kottaras said, thats what wed try to do not throw anything over the plate. Try to let the hitter get himself out. I just stuck with it. Tried to stay up the middle and the other way.
Im more of a pull hitter in general. I just kind of let it happen.
The Royals improved to 20-6-1 and extended their lead atop the Cactus League to 2 ½ games over second-place Seattle, which fell to 18-9 by losing 10-5 to Cleveland.
Ervin Santana limited the D-Backs to two earned runs (four overall) before handing a 7-4 lead to Tim Collins to start the seventh.
Collins quickly surrendered five runs on six straight one-out hits, but the Royals regained the lead by answering with three runs later in the inning. Kottaras had the key blow with a two-run single on a bad hop past first.
That lead lasted only until Alfredo Marte hit J.C. Gutierrezs first pitch in the eighth inning over the center-field wall.
Tim Collins became the seventh inning by striking out Gerardo Parra before everything unraveled. Arizona got six straight hits, including a two-run double by Paul Goldschmidt and a two-run homer by Miguel Montero.
(Collins) really was throwing the ball well that one outing before he went to the WBC, manager Ned Yost said. Then (he) went and kind of sat for a while. Got off-kilter a little bit.
Not too much concern. There are some mechanical things we need to continue to address with him a little bit. Dave (Eiland, the pitching coach) thinks hell be fine.
J.C. Gutierrez didnt help his cause to secure the last bullpen job by yielding a game-tying homer to start the eighth. He allowed three more singles in the inning but escaped without further damage.
He needs to put his best foot forward, Yost said, especially going into the last week. He gave up the leadoff home run but got out of it. Bases loaded, it got a little hairy, but he did get out of it. Give him credit for that.
Alex Gordon and Billy Butler staked the Royals to a 2-0 lead by hitting home runs in the first inning against Arizona starter Randall Dalgado.
George Kottaras bolstered his bid for the backup catchers job by going two for three with three RBIs and two walks as the designated hitter.
Utilityman Elliot Johnson ignited a four-run fifth inning with a two-run homer. He also had a double and a sacrifice fly in four plate appearances.
On the day that he learned hed won the starting job at second base, Chris Getz entered the game as the replacement for left fielder Alex Gordon.
The first ball to Getz was Eric Chavezs high fly into a high sky in the seventh inning with two on and one out. The ball caromed off the wall for an RBI double.
Ive been telling him all spring that Im going to put him out there, manager Ned Yost said. Now, Ive fulfilled my promise. Like I told him, too: `They cant just hit you a routine fly ball. Theyve got to hit one off the wall.
Getz has never played in the outfield in 371 big-league games and not at all since 2008, when he played 15 games in left field for Class AAA Charlotte in the White Soxs system.
The Royals chose Getz as their starting second baseman by optioning Johnny Giavotella to Class AAA Omaha prior to the game.
Lefty John Lamb worked his fastball from 87-91 mph in his last two minor-league starts, which is an improvement in his velocity from earlier this spring while in big-league camp.
Lamb, 22, underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2011 and battled a foot injury last summer that slowed his recovery. He appears likely to start the season at Class A Wilmington.
The Royals released 11 minor-league players over the last few days, including outfielder Nick Van Stratten, a former Winnetonka standout who was the Class A Burlington player of the year in 2009.
Also released: pitchers Rudy Brown, Allen Caldwell, Blaine Hardy, Joe Karlik, Patrick Keating, Jason Mitchell, Lincoln Rassi, and Jamie Richmond; and infielders Michael Liberto and Adrian Martinez.
Rotation candidate Luis Mendoza permitted no earned runs in six innings Friday night for Class AAA Omaha against Round Rock (Texas). He allowed six hits and two runs while striking out two and walking two.
Mendoza yielded just one run over 11 innings in three previous Cactus League appearances and is scheduled to start Wednesday against Milwaukee in the afternoon game of a split-squad, day/night doubleheader.
The Royals and White Sox hook up Sunday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale just eight days before they open the regular season against one another at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
Jeremy Guthrie will start for the Royals -- something of a surprise because he is slotted to face the White Sox in the April 4 series finale.
Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Francisley Bueno and Donnie Joseph are also slotted for work.
Royals (RHP Jeremy Guthrie) vs. White Sox (RHP Dylan Axelrod) at 3:05 p.m. Central time in Glendale, Ariz.
Dude, I was so close. I needed the wind to blow it a little more.
_ switch-hitting second baseman Elliot Johnson on nearly hitting homers from both sides of the plate. He hit a boomer to right as a left-handed hitter in the fifth inning, but his drive to deep left as a right-handed hitter in the sixth hooked just foul.
| Bob Dutton,
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY: EIGHT DAYS