Well, what’d you expect, Royals fans? Instant gratification? That George Brett could work his magic in the first inning Thursday night at Busch Stadium?
It didn’t appear until the ninth -- a remarkable, stunning ninth inning that saw the Royals stage a three-run rally for a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Oh, but there was more. Much more.
The Royals had to survive a scare from Mother Nature that threatened to take it all away. But after a 4-hour, 32-minute rain delay, play resumed and they broke their eight-game losing streak.
“We needed something like this,” said right fielder Jeff Francoeur, whose leadoff homer ignited the three-run ninth.
“For us, that’s a huge win. I can tell you this, there’s not a person in here who cares that it’s 3:30 in the morning. It feels like 10 o’clock for us.”
The victory came just hours after Brett replaced hitting coach Jack Maloof on an interim basis. Maloof and assistant Andre David were reassigned to jobs within the minor-league system prior to the game.
A little Brett mojo?
“We can use some more of it,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer, whose two-run double on a high hopper past first provided the winning margin.
“We can definitely use some more of it. It was cool to get a win on George’s first day. Hopefully, there are plenty more to come.”
Francoeur’s homer came on a low liner to left against Mitchell Boggs, who drew the ninth inning because Cardinals closer Edward Mujica pitched the four previous days.
“Caught too much of the plate,” Boggs said. “You can’t do that in that situation.”
It was only the third homer by a Royals player in 15 games, and it changed everything.
When Boggs followed the homer by walking Alex Gordon, the Cardinals brought in ex-Royals reliever Victor Marte, who hit Alcides Escobar with a pitch.
Escobar was attempting a sacrifice when the ball came up and in and struck him on his right hand.
David Lough then succeeded in putting down a bunt, and Marte appeared to have Gordon out at third — but he bounced the throw, and the Royals had the bases loaded with no outs.
Hosmer then pulled a seeing-eye hopper that cleared a leaping Allen Craig at first base for a two-run double.
And, incredibly, the Royals led 4-2.
“We talk about this (losing) streak,” manager Ned Yost said. “We’ve been in every game. We’ve been one hit away, and tonight we got the hit.”
An intentional walk to pinch-hitter Chris Getz re-loaded the bases when the heavens opened up before Marte could deliver a pitch to Miguel Tejada.
It was a heavy rain that could have erased the comeback if the game had been called. The rules are different for the final game of a series for a club’s last visit to a city.
The score would have reverted back to the previous inning, i.e., a 2-1 victory for the Cardinals. Umpire crew chief Joe West inspected the field on a few occasions and chose not to call the game.
“In all cases when it’s the last trip in,” West said, “the umpires make every effort to get the game played in entirety so that the game itself determines the outcome.
“The field conditions were bad, and the grounds crew did everything they could to make it playable. They did a great job.”
Play resumed at 3:04 a.m., with Joe Kelly now facing Tejada, who immediately hit into a double play that included a force at home. The Royals settled for just the two runs.
It was enough.
Greg Holland closed out the game with a one-two-three inning for his eighth save. Louis Coleman, 1-0, got the victory. Boggs, 0-3, was the loser.
The game ended at 3:14 and, for the Royals, it was worth the wait.
“What a night,” Hosmer said. “Unbelievably long. I think the most impressive thing was Holland was pretty sharp in that (ninth) inning after sitting around all day and all night.”
Francoeur’s 381-foot drive to left snatched a victory away from Michael Wacha, who was brilliant in his big-league debut. He yielded one run and just two hits in seven innings.
“Wacha, that kid -- he threw the ball great,” Yost said. “Frenchy got us going. Sometimes, you talk about that one hit, and that was it.”
The comeback also enabled Jeremy Guthrie to gain a no-decision after permitting just two runs in six innings. Both runs came in the first and, until Francoeur’s homer, appeared sufficient to send him to a fourth straight loss.
“It’s nice that it happened the way it did,” Guthrie said. “We got some late runs with our backs against the wall. I think the guys have confidence. I know we’ve scuffled, but you see everybody in here working.
“The results haven’t been there, but if you have a foundation of work, things will come around.”
Even after 3 in the morning.
Wacha, 21, was the Cardinals’ first-round pick a year ago, and he began his big-league career by retiring the first 13 Royals before Lorenzo Cain ended the run with a one-out double in the fifth.
Cain then failed to tag up on Mike Moustakas’ fly to deep right, although he still scored on Elliot Johnson’s ground single through the right side. That pulled the Royals back to within 2-1.
That’s how it stood until the ninth.
“Even the elements were against us,” Yost said. “I wasn’t sure we were going to get that game in. And to lose that game in that fashion after coming back in the ninth inning just wouldn’t have been right.”