A seven-run third inning and an eight-run lead and, still, it seemed like the Royals had to hang on all night Wednesday before securing a 9-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
It shouldn’t be this hard, right?
“It never felt comfortable because their lineup kept turning around,” manager Ned Yost said. “Here comes (Albert) Pujols; here comes (Mark) Trumbo; here comes (Mike) Trout; here comes (Josh) Hamilton.”
Even so, the Royals, after rolling early, kept the Angels at arm’s length and won the three-game series after limping into Angel Stadium with just one victory in their seven previous games.
So what if the Angels are also skidding; their 15-25 record is the second-worst in the American League.
“It doesn’t matter how they’ve been playing,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “We’ve had a rough stretch, too. Wins are wins. It’s good to take two out of three anywhere.”
Butler contributed a two-run single to the seven-run third and finished the series with nine RBIs. In doing so, he became the first visiting player to have multiple RBIs in every game of a series at the Big A in nearly 10 years.
The Royals rolled early. They scored once in the second inning on successive two-out doubles by Mike Moustakas and Salvy Perez against Angels starter Barry Enright before blowing the game open in the third.
Lorenzo Cain’s three-run double highlighted the Royals’ biggest inning of the season. Their previous best was five on three occasions.
It was their best output since an eight-run sixth on Aug. 20, 2011 in a 9-4 victory over Boston.
So 8-0 and cruising?
The Angels mounted one threat after another against Royals starter Wade Davis and a bullpen relay before Greg Holland delivered a stress-free ninth inning in a non-save situation.
The victory boosted the Royals to 20-17 as they enter an open date Thursday before starting a three-game series Friday at Oakland.
Davis, 3-3, wasn’t particularly sharp in throwing 103 pitches in 5⅓ innings while allowing four runs and nine hits. But double plays helped him in two innings.
“I fell behind a lot of hitters and threw too many pitches, which kept me from getting deep into the game,” he said. “But the offense was pretty incredible today.”
Tim Collins and Aaron Crow followed Davis in the sixth, but the Angels scored twice, and cut the lead to 8-4, before Crow induced an inning-ending grounder from Pujols with the bases loaded.
The Royals finally answered after Cain led off the seventh inning with a double against Garrett Richards. Cain stole third with one out and scored when Perez lined a single off Richards and into center field.
The lead was back to five runs. Enough to win; never enough that it felt safe until Holland recorded the final out.
Kelvin Herrera stranded two runners in the seventh by retiring Chris Iannetta on a fly to right. Herrera then retired the first two batters in the eighth before serving up a booming homer to Trout to center.
Jarrod Dyson suffered an injury while climbing the wall on Trout’s drive when he appeared to have no chance for a catch. Dyson left the game because of what was later diagnosed as a sprained right ankle.
Plans call for Dyson to be evaluated further on Thursday.
The Royals opened the scoring after Moustakas hustled his way to a two-out double in the second by just beating Hamilton’s throw from right.
That turned into a run when Perez sent a slicing drive to right past Hamilton that hopped the short wall for a rulebook double.
The Royals gambled when Elliot Johnson followed with a line single to left by trying to score Perez, but J.B. Shuck made a strong, online throw to the plate for the out.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia applied a quick hook to Enright, 0-2, after the Royals loaded the bases with no outs in the third by sandwiching walks to Dyson and Gordon around a single by Alcides Escobar.
Scioscia called on Mark Lowe to face Butler.
That sure didn’t work.
Butler pulled a two-run singles through the left side for a 3-0 lead.
“I didn’t hit it particularly hard,” Butler said. “It just found the five-six hole. It’s where you put it, not how hard you hit it.”
Lowe then reloaded the bases by walking Eric Hosmer before Cain cleared them with a three-run double into the left-field corner.
That closed the book on Enright at four runs and five hits in two-plus innings, but the Royals weren’t quite done. Cain moved to third on Johnson’s two-out infield single.
Johnson stole second before a pitch got past Iannetta for a run-scoring passed ball. Johnson took third — and scored when Dyson drove a triple into the right-center gap for an 8-0 lead.
Of note, the Royals drew three walks in the inning after getting some pregame encouragement to be more selective from Yost in a special hitters’ meeting.
“Our approaches were better tonight,” Yost said. “We had some really good at-bats. It was a good offensive night. A big third inning. That was the game for us, and it started with Dyson going 0-2 and then coaxing a walk.”
LA began climbing back by nicking Davis for one run in their third when Trout pulled a two-out double past third and scored on a Pujols single.
Davis found serious problems in the fourth when successive one-out singles by Howie Kendrick, Callaspo and Iannetta produced one run and put runners at first and third.
A walk to Shuck loaded the bases for the top of the order, but Davis got Erick Aybar to ground into a double play.
The Angels put Davis in another jam in the sixth when Hamilton and Kendrick opened the inning with singles. Callaspo made it 8-3 with a sacrifice fly to center.
When Davis walked Iannetta, Yost called on Collins, who yielded a single to Shuck that loaded the bases and turned over the lineup.
Collins retired Aybar on a fly to short center, which forced the runners to hold, before Yost summoned Crow for a right-on-right matchup against Trout.
A four-pitch walk forced in a run and brought Pujols to the plate as the tying run. Crow stopped it there by getting Pujols to ground out to third.
That still left nine outs to go.