Royals

Mike Moustakas’ solo blast in eighth gives Royals a 3-2 victory over Angels

The Royals’ Mike Moustakas celebrated after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning of a 3-2 win over the Angels on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals’ Mike Moustakas celebrated after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning of a 3-2 win over the Angels on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The bullpen had teetered on the brink, wiping away a one-run lead and another night of superb starting pitching. The night had hung in the balance. So Mike Moustakas stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, and the Royals relied on their most useful offensive weapon: The solo home run.

In 10 games, the Royals had homered 13 times and subsisted on 11 solo shots. The statistic vexed manager Ned Yost and put him in a strange spot. Nobody can complain about homers, of course, least of all the leader of a struggling offense. But as the numbers piled up, as baseballs kept leaving the yard with nobody on base, Yost has felt the urge to be a little greedy.

“It would be nice if we could have a two- or three-run homer every now and then,” Yost said. “But look, they win you ballgames, and it won us one today.”

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The decisive blast came in the bottom of the eighth on Saturday night. Moustakas cranked his fifth homer, depositing another baseball onto the advertising-laden porch in right field. The moment sent a jolt through Kauffman Stadium and delivered a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. The Royals engineered their third straight victory and moved to 5-6 on the season.

The formula followed a familiar pattern. A Royals starting pitcher was efficient and effective. The bullpen was momentarily suspect … until Joakim Soria arrived on the scene. The offense relied on the solo homer.

Brandon Moss broke a 1-1 tie with his second homer of the season in the fourth inning. Moustakas muscled up against Angels left-hander Jose Alvarez in the bottom of the eighth. The battle illustrated Moustakas’ scorching start.

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“He threw me two sliders in a row,” Moustakas said. “And I wanted to pull the trigger on that first strike and wasn’t able to.

“He came back with a fastball, and I was able to put some barrel on it. It carried out of the yard.”

Off the bat, the thunderous crack signaled homer for the 24,162 fans in attendance. So did the sight of Moustakas at the plate. In his 11th game, Moustakas pulled even with club leader Salvador Perez with his fifth homer. In his last 286 at-bats, dating back to Aug. 20, 2015, the Royals’ third baseman has gone deep 23 times.

“He’s locked in,” Yost said.

One stroke from Moustakas delivered the Royals’ first three-game winning streak of 2017. But it was a starting pitcher who once again set the tone.

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For 10 games, the Royals’ veteran-laden starting rotation had been the most reliable in the American League, posting a collective 2.70 ERA, keeping the club in games, rescuing a team that had been beset by a sluggish offense and combustible bullpen. On Saturday, the baton was passed to the fifth member of the unit, right-hander Nathan Karns. For six innings, Karns continued the suffocating performance, allowing just one run on four hits.

He struck out three and walked two. He retired 12 straight batters from the second to the sixth innings. He lowered the rotation’s collective ERA to 2.59 in 66 innings.

He also saved himself from a disappointing finish by escaping a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth.

With three men on and the Royals’ lead at 2-1, Karns battled with Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who whacked a 2-1 offering into the left-field corner. Alex Gordon gave chase and made a running catch at the warning track. Back on the infield grass, Karns popped his glove twice and stared intently at Perez, pointing his finger toward home plate.

Off the bat, Karns said, the placement and distance made him feel “suspicious.” The sight of Gordon calmed his nerves. The point to Perez offered a thank you after the catcher spent the night at the controls. Before the game, Karns said, he had met with Perez for their usual pregame meeting.

“We went through our game plan,” Karns said. “But basically, at the end of the meeting, he was just like: ‘Follow me. He had a good feel for these guys today.’ ”

Royals manager Ned Yost discusses pitcher Nathan Karns' outing vs. Angels 

Karns’ sixth-inning stand offered a momentary reprieve. The bullpen couldn’t hold things together in the seventh. Yost opted to remove Karns after 85 pitches, rather than risk overexposure with another trip through the Angels’ lineup.

Left hander Mike Minor entered and yielded a single, a deep fly ball and a walk. Yost turned to Soria, who recorded a strikeout before allowing a game-trying RBI single through the right side by Ben Revere.

With the score knotted at 2-2, the Royals elected to intentionally walk Mike Trout and face Albert Pujols with the bases loaded. The decision underscored the dominance of Trout and the current version of Pujols, no longer the fearsome hitter from his prime. Soria held the line by freezing Pujols on a 3-2 fastball.

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“I’ve got that much confidence in Soria to face a future Hall of Famer in that situation with the bases loaded,” Yost said. “You’ve got the reigning MVP that’s up to bat. That’s a hard choice right there. I’ve felt like I had enough confidence that Jack could get the job done.”

Soria worked another scoreless inning in the eighth, throwing 38 pitches on the night. He picked up his first win while keeping his season ERA at 0.00.

For the second straight night, the Angels opened the game with a run in the top of the first. Yet once again, the Royals erased the deficit in the bottom half of the inning. Gordon led off with a walk. Lorenzo Cain sent a one-out single into center field. Eric Hosmer lashed an RBI single to left field, scoring Gordon from second base.

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Angels starter Matt Shoemaker would settle in during the second. In his career, the right-handed Shoemaker had logged an 11.34 ERA against the Royals in four starts. The number did not include a no-decision in Game 2 of the 2014 American League Division Series, when Shoemaker held the Royals to a run in six innings.

On Saturday, he was closer to that postseason form, surviving 5  1/3 innings and leaving with the Royals leading 2-1. After the early traffic in the first inning, his only other significant mistake came on a 2-1 splitter that hung in the strike zone against Moss.

The baseball was launched 392 feet into the Angels’ bullpen in right. Moss had collected his third hit of the year, putting the Royals ahead 2-1.

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For a while, it was the decisive run, a solo shot that broke a tie. By the end, Moustakas had added another.

“I’m seeing the ball pretty good right now,” Moustakas said.

At some point, of course, the Royals would prefer more base runners, more three-run blasts, and more offense. It’s a nice thought. But for now, after another victory and a surge back toward .500, any homer will do.

Royals 3, Angels 2

Los Angeles

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Y.Escobar 3b

5

0

0

0

0

1

.320

Revere lf

5

1

2

1

0

1

.263

Trout dh

2

0

1

0

2

0

.333

Pujols 1b

4

0

1

1

0

1

.208

Calhoun rf

3

0

0

0

1

1

.273

Simmons ss

4

0

0

0

0

1

.286

Maybin cf

3

1

1

0

1

2

.212

Espinosa 2b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.214

Maldonado c

2

0

0

0

1

0

.214

a-Pennington ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.250

Totals

33

2

6

2

5

8

 

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Gordon lf

3

1

1

0

1

1

.205

Moustakas 3b

4

1

1

1

0

0

.293

Cain cf

4

0

2

0

0

2

.378

Hosmer 1b

3

0

1

1

1

0

.190

Perez c

3

0

0

0

0

3

.268

Moss dh

3

1

1

1

0

0

.103

Orlando rf

3

0

0

0

0

1

.143

A.Escobar ss

3

0

0

0

0

2

.189

Mondesi 2b

3

0

0

0

0

1

.125

Totals

29

3

6

3

2

10

 

Los Angeles

100

000

100

2

6

0

Kansas City

100

100

01x

3

6

0

a-grounded out for Maldonado in the 9th.

LOB: Los Angeles 9, Kansas City 4. HR: Moss (2), off Shoemaker; Moustakas (5), off Alvarez. RBIs: Revere (1), Pujols (8), Moustakas (6), Hosmer (5), Moss (3). SB: Trout (2).

Runners left in scoring position: Los Angeles 5 (Pujols 2, Calhoun, Simmons 2); Kansas City 1 (Moss). RISP: Los Angeles 1 for 6; Kansas City 1 for 4. Runners moved up: Pujols. GIDP: Hosmer. DP: Los Angeles 1 (Espinosa, Simmons, Pujols).

Los Angeles

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Shoemaker

5 1/3

5

2

2

2

7

105

6.14

Norris

 2/3

0

0

0

0

1

14

2.84

Parker

1

0

0

0

0

1

9

3.00

Alvarez L, 0-1

1

1

1

1

0

1

16

3.00

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Karns

6

4

1

1

2

3

85

4.38

Minor

 1/3

1

1

1

1

0

7

6.75

Soria W, 1-0

1 2/3

1

0

0

2

4

38

0.00

Herrera S, 2

1

0

0

0

0

1

12

4.50

Hold: Minor (1). Inherited runners-scored: Norris 1-0, Soria 2-1. WP: Karns.

Umpires: Home, Ed Hickox; First, Chris Conroy; Second, Jerry Meals; Third, Ron Kulpa. Time: 3:16. Att: 24,162.

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