Even on a night when Magic has no magic, right now, it just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. These Royals can do anything — anything that needs doing.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
How long this lasts is anyone’s guess but right now — right now! — it’s absolutely spell-binding for their long-numbed fan base.
So what that Ervin “Magic” Santana didn’t have it Friday night? The Royals simply erased a three-run deficit with a six-run sixth inning in a remarkable 9-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
“We just never say quit,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “That’s the whole attitude of this team. We knew we were still in that ballgame. We’ve come from behind before, and we knew we could do it again.”
That sounds corny or trite, maybe, until you see it unfold.
“A fantastic win,” manager Ned Yost said. “It was a night when Ervin didn’t have his command, but the bats picked him up. He’s picked us up many times this year.”
That makes (deep breath) three straight victories, including two in a row over the Red Sox; 15 victories in their last 17 games; and 17 victories in 21 games since the All-Star break.
The Royals even — finally — picked up a game on first-place Detroit, whose winning streak ended at 12 games in a loss at New York. They now trail the Tigers by 7 1/2 games with 11 games remaining between the two clubs.
The wild-card math is more encouraging: The Royals remain 4 1/2 games back for the final postseason berth.
Got all that?
Now ... realize it’s approaching mid-August; the Chiefs just opened their exhibition schedule, and the Royals can calculate the postseason geometric possibilities rather than count down a tragic number to elimination.
And games like Friday’s comeback victory make anything seem possible. If you’re not yet ready to believe?
“I don’t care,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “No one in here doubts each other. People outside this clubhouse can think whatever they want.”
Santana lasted a season-low 3 2/3 innings before departing after allowing six runs and nine hits while laboring through 97 pitches. It was, at minimum, the second-worst outing in his 23 starts.
“Every time we get the win,” he said, “it doesn’t matter how, it’s huge for us. After the win, I just told everybody, ‘Thank you for picking me up. I’ll just get them next time.’”
Much of Santana’s problems came with two outs: Daniel Nava’s RBI single in the first, Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s RBI double in the third and Mike Napoli’s three-run double in the fourth.
The Royals kept pace for a while against Boston starter Jake Peavy, a trade-deadline acquisition from the White Sox.
Justin Maxwell ignited a two-run second inning with a homer, and Alex Gordon erased a 3-2 deficit with a homer in the third.
But Napoli’s drive, which carried over Maxwell’s head in center, finished Santana and put the Royals on the canvass.
Until that magnificent sixth.
“They say offense is contagious,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said, “and we just kept plugging along with great at-bat after great at-bat.”
First, the Royals knocked out Peavy by opening the inning with successive singles by Maxwell, Moustakas and Alcides Escobar. That produced one run.
Reliever Drake Britton replaced Peavy and loaded the bases by walking George Kottaras before Miguel Tejada, batting for Elliot Johnson, fouled out to first. David Lough made it 6-5 with a sacrifice fly to right.
There was a bit of good fortune in that sac fly. Moustakas broke early on the drive, which forced him to retreat and make a belated dash for the plate. He scored only by eluding Saltalamacchia’s tag.
“D-Lough hit that ball on the screws,” Moustakas said. “I kind of went home first, which was a bad read by me, but I was able to get back and tag up.”
Escobar and Kottaras moved up on the throw home, which enabled both to score when Hosmer served a single into left field. The Royals led 7-6, and Santana was off the hook for a loss.
Pedro Beato replaced Britton and offered up a first-pitch slider to Billy Butler, who lined an RBI double to center for a 8-6 lead. Gordon walked before Maxwell pulled an RBI single through the left side.
And it was 9-6.
“I’m not going to say it’s surprising,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “They battled. They swung the bats well tonight, and when we mislocated, they made us pay.”
Thereafter, it was just a matter of holding the lead for Francisley Bueno who, in his first outing since arriving from Class AAA Omaha, worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings after replacing Santana.
Kelvin Herrera pitched around a leadoff single in the seventh before Tim Collins worked into big trouble in the eighth.
Jacoby Ellsbury battled through 10 pitches for a leadoff walk, but Shane Victorino followed with one on four pitches. Out came pitching coach Dave Eiland for a quick conference.
“He just said, ‘Let’s go, this is your inning,’ ” Collins said. “He told me to attack the zone and get ahead.”
And right now, the Royals get what they need when they need it. Dustin Pedroia’s sharp grounder to third resulted in a double play with force outs at third and second.
“Pedroia comes up and hits a ground ball right at me,” Moustakas said. “Timmy did exactly what he wanted to do. I was able to field it and step on third. I knew Miggy (Tejada) was going to be over there, so I fired it over to him.”
Collins ended the inning when David Ortiz hit a pop up to third. Greg Holland then closed out the victory for his 31st save. Bueno, 1-0, was the winner. Britton, 1-1, was the loser.
Yep, the Royals keep rolling.
“Anything can happen when you play baseball,” Santana said. “You just have to keep the faith. I didn’t have my best stuff ... my command was off, but we still got the win. That’s a good thing.”
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.