PHILADELPHIA — A weekend of wild emotional swings climaxed Sunday with the Royals holding on for a 9-8 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Kelvin Herrera kept the Royals from seeing their bullpen squander a seemingly safe lead in the ninth inning for second straight game by stranding the tying and winning runs on base after the Phillies scored four times.
“That was a little too close right there,” center fielder Jarrod Dyson said. “But you know what? We got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Dyson scored what proved to be the winning run by making a terrific read on a looping single in the eighth inning by Alex Gordon. It seemed a footnote at the time after everything that preceded it.
But so much was yet to come.
This was a circus ride played out over 3 hours and 20 minutes. First, the Phillies cuffed Royals ace James Shields for four runs in the first inning on a series of well-placed grounders and a soft-serve single.
Then the Royals roared back behind a seven-RBI performance by Billy Butler, which matched a franchise record and, on appeal, included his first career grand slam.
The Royals carried a 9-4 lead into the ninth but J.C. Gutierrez quickly gave up three runs. Next, Greg Holland failed to atone for blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Saturday’s loss.
Holland recorded the inning’s second out but also yielded two singles. In came Herrera, who gave up an RBI single and threw a wild pitch that put runners at second and third.
Herrera then battled Erik Kratz for nine pitches. Kratz fouled off five straight 1-2 offerings before, finally, Herrera resorted to guile and, instead of a power fastball, unleashed an 84-mph change-up for a swinging strikeout.
“It looked like he was ready for everything, right?” Herrera said. “I just wanted to win the battle. I got him with a change-up that I threw down.”
Kratz swung, missed and the Royals escaped. They won the series and evened their record at 3-3 as they prepare for Monday’s home opener against Minnesota at Kauffman Stadium.
“Obviously, (Saturday) night’s loss was a little disappointing,” Shields said, “but we came back today strong. That’s the name of the game — to come back after a loss like that and get a nice little dub (W).
“To go 3-3 on the first road trip, we’ll take that. Obviously, we have some things to do, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Shields, 1-1, steadied after that four-run first and permitted nothing more before handing an 8-4 lead to Tim Collins to start the seventh. Collins blazed through six straight hitters over two scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
That got the game to the ninth in, seemingly, good order, but things changed in a hurry. Gutierrez sandwiched a walk and a single around a strikeout in the ninth before Jimmy Rollins hit a three-run homer.
The five-run lead was down to two, and the Royals called on Holland. And then Herrera before executing a narrow escape that seemed a fitting way to end the weekend.
“This series was funny,” right fielded Jeff Francoeur said. “The one time I thought we were going to win, we lost. The two times we probably should have lost, we won.”
The Royals overcame 4-0 deficits for victories on Friday and Sunday. They carried a 3-1 lead into ninth inning Saturday before Holland gave up three walks and a three-run double in a 4-3 loss.
Butler led Sunday’s comeback with a breakout game after entering the game with just two hits (and one RBI) in 15 at-bats. He had an RBI grounder in the third inning, a grand slam in the fifth and a two-run single in sixth.
“It feels good,” he said, “and it feels good that I did it in a win. That means I can enjoy it even more. Especially after (Saturday). It was good to bounce back, get back in the saddle and get back to winning.”
The Royals did most of their damage against Phillies ace Cole Hamels, who fell to 0-2 after blowing that four-run lead while giving up a career-high eight earned runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“When we’re able to score runs early,” Hamels said, “you want to be able to keep the team in the ballgame. I wasn’t able to do that.”
Gordon had three hits and scored three runs while completing a seven-for-14 series. Chris Getz and Butler each had two of the Royals’ 13 hits.
The Royals scored their final run after Dyson’s one-out double in the eighth over Ezequiel Carrera’s head in right. Gordon then sent a looper into left that Dyson read perfectly in sprinting from second to score on the single.
“I saw (left fielder John Mayberry Jr.) off the bat,” Dyson said. “When it was hit, he kind of loafed to it. I thought, ‘He’s going to have to make a diving play because I’m going to score if it drops.’”
It dropped, and Dyson scored easily. That proved to be the winning run.
“Great series,” manager Ned Yost said. “You take away the last inning (Saturday) night and the last inning tonight, and we played exceptional baseball here against an extremely tough team.
“I’m pleased with the way we came out of this series winning two out of three.”
No matter how they did it.