Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie was laboring. The Indians played merry-go-round on the bases in the second inning and didn’t stop until they reached five runs.
Even Guthrie appeared to be getting dizzy. He didn’t cover the bag after an impressive diving stop by first baseman Billy Butler, and upon reaching the dugout Guthrie was close to his boiling point.
“About 97 percent capacity of anger and frustration,” Guthrie said.
But he didn’t give in. Guthrie battled back, got the Royals into the sixth inning with no additional damage and the bats and bullpen brought it home.
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The Royals won 7-5, and their fifth straight triumph became one of their most satisfying. The five-run deficit was the largest they have overcome in a victory this season.
They’ve taken three straight from the Indians, a team the Royals trailed in the Central Division entering the series.
And if scoreboard watching is your thing, have at it. Saturday’s win pushed the Royals closer to a playoff spot.
Three teams remain ahead of Kansas City for the second wild-card spot, but the Royals are only one game behind the teams tied for that position, the Yankees and Blue Jays. The Mariners are a half-game ahead of the Royals.
Guthrie wasn’t the only traveler on the comeback trail Saturday.
Butler, whose season-long power outage had him out of the lineup for two of the previous three games, crushed his second two-run homer in two days.
Like Friday, this one broke a deadlock and provided the winning margin. Also like Friday, he tattooed it.
The blast traveled 433 feet over the Royals’ bullpen in left field. Indians left fielder Chris Dickerson looked up and didn’t make much of a move. There was no need.
“I just got a pitch out over the plate,” Butler said. “My timing is going good … I’ve never been a guy who’s gotten distance but I’ve caught the last two pretty good. Maybe I’m starting to figure it out.”
What a boost that would be for the Royals, who remain last in the American League with 61 home runs. That’s 30 fewer than their opponents have hit. But the Royals have hit four homers in the last two games and haven’t had to rely solely on pitching and defense during this winning streak.
The Royals began mounting a charge in the third inning, when Alcides Escobar scored on Omar Infante’s fielder’s-choice grounder to short. That made it 5-1.
“I had a strong sense that we were going to find a way to get back into this game,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
But it required Guthrie to settle down, which is precisely what transpired.
“I just was trying to get as many quick outs as possible and see what happens,” Guthrie said. “(Yost) said, ‘If you hold it here, we have a chance to win this game.’ ”
The Royals proved their manager correct. By the end of the third, the Royals had pulled even, and accomplished most of the damage with two outs.
Two were on when Escobar dunked an RBI single to right, and this was one of those big moments that sometimes are forgotten. Jarrod Dyson had just whiffed for the second out. If Escobar didn’t come through the tenor of the game might have changed.
Nori Aoki, the designated hitter for the third straight game, followed by roping his third triple of the season into the right-field corner. In came Escobar and Lorenzo Cain, and the Royals tied it when Aoki trotted home on a passed ball by Yan Gomes.
This was the answer to the Indians onslaught that started with yet another home run by Carlos Santana. His solo shot led off the second inning and was his third home run against the Royals in two games.
Guthrie retired the next two batters, and he was an out away from a low-damage frame. Instead the floodgates opened.
The next seven Indians reached base, with the big blow provided by Jason Kipnis, who drove in two on his double that one-hopped the wall in right center.
But that was it. Guthrie refocused and four relievers did their jobs, none more impressively than Kelvin Herrera. He inherited two runners with none out in the seventh, but Herrera stared down three straight left-handed hitters, getting Nick Swisher to offer at one of his 100-mph fastballs for a strikeout and the final out.
Wade Davis did his eighth-inning thing —he’s pitched 44 2/3 innings this season without surrendering an extra-base hit — and closer Greg Holland, who blew a save in his previous appearance, tossed a perfect ninth to keep the Royals moving in the right direction and complete a night of team and individual comebacks.
“If you have the slightest inkling you can’t do it, you won’t,” Butler said. “Not one guy in the dugout felt that way.”