Royals

Royals’ Eric Hosmer clubs first career walk-off homer off Greg Holland in 6-4 win

In the back corner of the clubhouse, amid the victorious chatter and random shouts, a voice rose above the din. A television monitor in the center of the room was showing the Royals’ postgame show, and the image of Eric Hosmer flashed on the screen, and Salvador Perez could not let the moment pass.

“That’s a homer, dog,” he yelled.

A few feet away, Hosmer admired his swing in silence, peering at the slow-motion breakdown of arms and legs working in perfect harmony. It was the kind of swing, Hosmer said, that could turn a season, the kind of swing that could ignite a run, the kind of swing that flipped a loss into a 6-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s a swing like that,” Hosmer said, “that can really get things going for a team.”

The swing had come in the bottom of the ninth inning, two runners on, the Royals trailing 4-3. It had come against Greg Holland, the former Kansas City closer who made his return to Kauffman Stadium this week. It had come on a 1-1 slider, the pitch that made Holland an All-Star.

Hosmer saw the pitch up and unleashed a ferocious cut, the baseball soaring into the night. It landed in the seats in right field, a three-run blast representing his first career walk-off homer, the Royals spilling out onto the field.

The party raged at home plate and throughout the stadium. A collection of players flashed heart signs and handed out hugs. Hosmer found himself in the middle of the scrum.

“That was a missile,” said Alex Gordon, who watched from second base.

“As soon as it was hit, you knew that the ballgame was over,” said manager Ned Yost.

For so many years, the image of Holland on a mound at Kauffman Stadium foreshadowed a victory. On Wednesday, Holland watched his former teammate beat him and then headed for the third-base dugout.

“It was up in the zone,” said Holland, who has blown three saves in his last six appearances. “It was pretty much a hanger. There were not a whole lot of positives today. They don’t pay me to get close; they pay me to get the job done.”

The Royals (64-61) secured their third series victory in four tries while claiming their third straight win. They remained on the cusp of an American League wild-card spot as the scoreboard watching commenced. When the victory was over, they had pulled within a half game of Minnesota (65-61), which occupied the second wild card, and even with the Los Angeles Angels (65-62). The Royals will close out a series against the Rockies on Thursday afternoon.

“We understood the magnitude of this,” Whit Merrifield said.

They will seek to ride the momentum and bottle this feeling. On Wednesday night, they weathered another mediocre performance from starter Ian Kennedy and survived an inefficient night from the offense, which put up three runs on 13 hits before Hosmer broke through. By the end, they moved three games above .500 for the first time since Aug. 6.

“We’re in the middle of the race,” Hosmer said. “And we need wins any way we can get them.”

For eight innings, the game had dragged and the drama was minimal. And then, this: Holland emerged from the bullpen in right field. What was left of the crowd at Kauffman Stadium offered a polite standing ovation. Then, the Royals went to work.

Gordon led off the inning and fell behind 0-1 by fouling off a 94 mph fastball before surviving five sliders in a seven-pitch walk. The moment, Hosmer said, changed the complexion of the game.

“It’s kind of a chess match at that point,” Hosmer said. “I think that Greg knows that, as a team, as soon as we get a leadoff guy on, we like to run.

“So that was a huge at-bat for Gordo to get on and kind of eliminate the slider down in the dirt that’s so effective and has made him (Holland) the guy he is over the years.”

Holland still nearly escaped. Merrifield, who matched his career high with four hits, ripped a pitch to left field, while Lorenzo Cain barreled a ball toward right. But both ended up in gloves. Two outs.

Moments later, Melky Cabrera extended the game by slapping a two-out single into left field. And that brought up Hosmer, who had never before ended a major-league baseball game with a home run.

He took a slider in the dirt for ball one, and then he started to look for more. For so many years, he had watched Holland bedevil hitters with breaking balls in the dirt. He understood what to look for.

“Just knowing how good his slider is,” Hosmer said, “I’m trying to look for something up.”

The next slider was up and called a strike. Holland came back with one more, and Hosmer did not miss.

“I got it pretty good,” he said.

As the baseball jumped off the bat, Hosmer took a few slow steps down the first-base line before looking at the dugout and breaking into a trot. Nearly 20 minutes later, after the victory and the party, he was back in the clubhouse. A television offered the highlights. His teammates relived the moment. Hosmer finally had a walk-off blast to savor.

“It only took me about seven years,” he said, smiling. “It’s all good.”

Royals 6, Rockies 4

Colorado

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Blackmon cf

5

1

3

1

0

1

.336

LeMahieu 2b

5

0

3

1

0

0

.313

Arenado 3b

4

1

1

1

1

2

.311

Parra dh

3

0

1

1

0

0

.343

Reynolds 1b

3

0

0

0

1

3

.275

Gonzalez rf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.240

Lucroy c

3

0

0

0

1

1

.250

Tapia lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.271

Story ss

2

2

1

0

2

0

.225

Totals

33

4

9

4

5

10

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

5

2

4

1

0

0

.288

Cain cf

5

0

1

1

0

1

.291

Cabrera rf

5

1

2

0

0

1

.295

Hosmer 1b

4

1

3

4

1

0

.319

Perez c

4

0

0

0

0

2

.278

Moustakas 3b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.282

Bonifacio dh

4

0

1

0

0

0

.258

Escobar ss

4

0

2

0

0

0

.240

Gordon lf

3

1

0

0

1

0

.198

Totals

38

6

14

6

2

4

Colorado

101

011

000

4

9

1

Kansas City

010

010

103

6

14

0

Two outs when winning run scored.

E: Story (9). LOB: Colorado 8, Kansas City 8. 2B: Parra (20), Cain (23). HR: Arenado (29), off Kennedy; Blackmon (30), off Kennedy; Hosmer (21), off Holland. RBIs: Blackmon (79), LeMahieu (53), Arenado (108), Parra (60), Merrifield (57), Cain (41), Hosmer 4 (73). SB: Merrifield (24). SF: Parra.

Runners left in scoring position: Colorado 5 (Arenado, Reynolds 2, Gonzalez 2); Kansas City 3 (Cain, Perez 2). RISP: Colorado 2 for 9; Kansas City 3 for 10. Runners moved up: Parra, Blackmon, Gordon, Hosmer. GIDP: Parra, Cain, Gordon. DP: Colorado 2 (Arenado, LeMahieu, Reynolds), (Reynolds, Story); Kansas City 1 (Escobar, Merrifield, Hosmer).

Colorado

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Senzatela

5

9

2

2

1

2

81

4.52

Rusin

1

1

0

0

0

0

16

2.50

Neshek

 2/3

1

1

1

0

2

13

1.63

McGee

1 1/3

1

0

0

0

0

24

3.45

Holland, L, 2-5

 2/3

2

3

3

1

0

23

3.77

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Kennedy

4 2/3

7

3

3

3

6

95

5.09

Buchter

1

1

1

1

1

0

29

3.44

Moylan

1 1/3

1

0

0

0

2

20

4.37

Alexander

1

0

0

0

0

2

9

2.38

Maurer, W, 3-5

1

0

0

0

1

0

14

6.00

Holds: Rusin (10), Neshek (14), McGee (16). Blown save: Holland (4). Inherited runners-scored: McGee 1-1, Buchter 3-0, Moylan 2-1.

Umpires: Home, Eric Cooper; First, Roberto Ortiz; Second, Lance Barksdale; Third, Dan Iassogna. Time: 3:36. Att: 25,752.

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