The noise kicked up inside the clubhouse late Sunday afternoon as Alex Gordon sank into a leather couch inside Fenway Park. A plate of food in front of him, a group of teammates crowding around, Gordon peered at the television in front of him.
In a 5-3 Royals victory over the Red Sox, Gordon had supplied the pivotal blow, a two-run triple in a four-run eighth inning. And nearly 20 minutes after closer Kelvin Herrera finished out the win, the Royals had taken to a casual bit of scoreboard watching, settling in for the ninth inning of the Cleveland Indians’ game in Chicago.
In moments, another piece of good news appeared: On the screen, Chicago’s Matt Davidson clubbed a two-run walk-off homer, sending the division-leading Indians to their first loss in 10 games. Inside the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway, a voice was heard above the din.
“There it is!”
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This was Sunday afternoon in Boston, another productive day for a surging team. The Royals had landed White Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera in a predeadline trade. They had erased a 3-1 Red Sox lead with a well-timed blitz in the eighth. And they had won their eighth game this season when trailing after seven innings. (More than the seven they won in 2014 or 2015.)
The victory secured a series victory in Boston and a 10th win in 11 games. And when it was over, the team sat inside the clubhouse and watched Cabrera’s old White Sox team provide a nice favor.
“It’s obvious we’re not a team that quits,” said Royals starter Jason Hammel, who allowed three runs in seven solid innings. “The way we started, nothing to write home about. But it’s a long season and we believe in the process.”
Hammel was talking about the season as a whole, a campaign that once seemed lost after a 10-20 April. But he could have been reflecting on another come-from-behind victory against the Red Sox, one that pushed the Royals (55-48) to seven games over .500 for the first time.
When the day was done, Kansas City possessed a 2 1/2 -game lead in the race for the second wild card spot and sat just two games behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain finished 3 for 5 with two runs scored. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was 2 for 3 with three RBIs, including a game-tying two-run single in the eighth.
“The big guys are getting on base,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “And Esky and Gordon, who struggled so much at the beginning of the year, come up with huge hits.”
This was the partial story. For seven innings on Sunday, the Royals could do little against Boston starter Drew Pomeranz, falling behind 3-1 when Hammel surrendered two runs in the second and another on a solo homer to Red Sox rookie Rafael Devers in the fifth. In one moment in the sixth, Cain led off the inning with a triple that banged off the center-field wall, only to be stranded at third.
But then Pomeranz exited after seven innings and 106 pitches, reliever Matt Barnes entered, and Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts committed a fielding error that allowed Cain to reach base with nobody out in the eighth.
“It’s just kind of typical of our success,” Yost said.
Eric Hosmer followed by ripping a chopper that staggered Barnes and deflected toward first base for an infield single. Moments later, Salvador Perez fought off a two-strike count and poked a single to right field, loading the bases.
Escobar tied the game at 3-3 with a single to right field, and Red Sox manager John Farrell emerged from the dugout, inserting left-hander Robby Scott to face Gordon with runners at second and third. On deck, third baseman Mike Moustakas prepared to pinch hit for utility man Ramon Torres if Gordon did not come through.
On the first pitch, Scott missed with a sinker. As he dug in, Gordon looked for another fastball, he said.
“I was just looking for a heater away I could drive,” he said.
Scott responded by hurling a fastball on the outside third of the plate. Gordon crushed the pitch to right-center, splitting two outfielders. He cruised into third base with a two-run triple.
“Huge hit,” Yost said.
All season long, Gordon has searched for an answer at the plate, a key to helping him become the hitter he once was. On the day the Royals acquired another corner outfielder, Gordon delivered a moment.
The Royals’ lead would remain at 5-3. Reliever Brandon Maurer, acquired from San Diego on Monday, worked a scoreless eighth inning before Herrera loaded the bases in an anxious ninth. In the end, Herrera coaxed a fly ball from Mookie Betts. The Royals were headed to Baltimore having won 10 of 11 and 16 of their last 23 on the road.
Hammel (5-8, 4.75 ERA) offered a lifeline to the bullpen, becoming the first Royals starter to go seven innings since July 15. The offense delivered an improbable victory with a four-run eighth.
“We just kept grinding,” Yost said. “Just keep grinding the at-bats.”