Who likes bunts?
The Royals scored the winning run Thursday in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox when David Lough and George Kottaras put down bunt singles after Justin Maxwell’s leadoff single in the seventh inning.
“Two bunts changed the game,” manager Ned Yost said. “I mean, David Lough’s two-run homer was big. Jeremy Guthrie, the way he threw the ball was tremendous. But the two bunts changed the game.”
That the White Sox mishandled both bunts deserves mention. So, too, that the Royals, after those bunts, failed to cash a second-and-third opportunity with no outs.
Still ... it worked out, and the Royals bounced back from two shutout losses in Seattle, which eliminated their chance to reach the postseason, by improving to 84-75 with three games remaining.
“That’s the goal of everyone — to sprint to the finish line,” said Guthrie, who allowed two runs in seven innings. “We won’t pack it in just because there’s no chance to make the playoffs.
“We’d love to win as many games as we can.”
Those 84 victories are the Royals’ highest total since their 1993 club finished 84-78. Greg Holland set a club record by getting his 46th save by working the ninth and closing out Guthrie’s victory.
Holland pitched around a two-out single in moving past Dan Quisenberry (1983) and Jeff Montgomery (1993) in the club’s record book.
“I think, maybe, it will set in a little later,” Holland said, “but right now, I’m just happy we won. Anytime you’re mentioned with guys you know were great, it’s pretty special.
“But when you’re out there on the mound, you’re just thinking about saving a game for the guys because they’ve played their butts off. They’ve done it all year. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Guthrie, 15-12, surrendered homers in the second inning to Paul Konerko and in the sixth to Adam Dunn but handed a one-run lead to Luke Hochevar to start the eighth inning.
Hochevar served up a leadoff single to Alejandro De Aza on an 0-2 fastball, but De Aza tried to steal second — and was thrown out by Kottaras, who drew a rare start in place of Salvy Perez.
“He put that sucker right on the money,” Hochevar said. “I knew (De Aza) likes to go, especially on the first pitch. I just tried to give him a quick slide step, and give Georgie a chance.”
When Hochevar followed by striking Marcus Semien, the Royals set a franchise single-season record: 1,178 strikeouts. The old record belonged to last year’s staff.
Yep, records everywhere.
About those bunts ...
The White Sox had just tied the game 2-2 on Dunn’s booming two-out homer in the sixth when Maxwell opened the seventh with a single to left against Chicago starter Andre Rienzo.
Manager Robin Ventura brought in Donnie Veal for a left-on-left matchup against Lough, whose two-run homer in the fourth had ended the Royals’ 21-inning scoreless streak that included those shutout losses in Seattle.
Lough put down a sacrifice bunt so well-placed that Konerko, after fielding the ball at first, had no play. The result was a single that moved Maxwell to second.
“I just wanted to get (Maxwell) over,” Lough said, “but he ended up stealing on the pitch. I was able to get it down, and I think Konerko must not have seen (Maxwell) running because he came up looking to second.”
Kottaras followed with a chopping bunt to the third-base side that catcher Bryan Anderson fielded in time for a play at first — but Anderson threw the ball into right field for what was scored a single and an error.
“After I saw it was in fair territory,” Kottaras said, “I was running so I didn’t see what happened. I was trying to beat it out, obviously. It worked out in my favor.”
Maxwell scored, Lough went to third and Kottaras wound up on second.
The runners held when Chris Getz grounded to third. Veal then struck out Alex Gordon, which prompted another pitching change — to Daniel Webb, who retired Pedro Ciriaco on a grounder to third.
So the Royals settled for one run but had the lead at 3-2.
It was enough ... for Guthrie to get a victory ... for Rienzo, 2-3, to get a loss...to put Holland in position for the club’s saves record ... and for the Royals to reach 84 victories for the first time in two decades.
“We want to keep adding to it,” Yost said. “We’ve got three games left, but it’s the first time in 20 years that we’ve won this many games. That’s pretty good.
“They’re all pushing, and they all want to finish strong. They’ve got that mind-set that we want to push right to the end.”