Royals

After Brandon Maurer blows ninth-inning lead, Royals lose to Astros in 12 innings

Carlos Correa had the game-winning hit for the Astros in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Royals in Houston on Saturday night.
Carlos Correa had the game-winning hit for the Astros in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Royals in Houston on Saturday night. The Associated Press

For almost two hours on Saturday evening, the Royals held onto a one-run lead over the reigning-world-champion Astros.

The Royals' prospects for a victory seemed high. Royals starting pitcher Ian Kennedy had thrown seven innings of two-run baseball and was in line to win for the first time since April 7. Reliever Wily Peralta had allowed a walk in the eighth but flashed a high-90s fastball that helped him throw a scoreless frame.

But when the doors to the visiting bullpen opened to allow Royals reliever Brandon Maurer, the very same who posted a 12.46 ERA in five early-season outings before being designated for assignment in April, to enter the Minute Maid Park field in the ninth inning, the Royals’ chances for a victory wavered.

The Royals lost to the Astros 4-3 on Carlos Correa's walkoff single in the 12th inning when a series of misplays wrought havoc on their error total. After Justin Grimm issued a leadoff walk to George Springer, the defense shifted and Alex Bregman hit a pop-up to short right-field, just left of the foul line. Royals first baseman Hunter Dozier struggled to get to it as second baseman Ryan Goins and right fielder Rosell Herrera converged for backup. The ball dropped, Dozier sprawled on the ground, and Goins wound up making a throw to third base that scuttled past Mike Moustakas.

Springer scored easily three pitches later on a ball hit to right-center field.

The Royals arrived at that juncture because Maurer had allowed back-to-back singles to place runners on the corners with one out in the ninth inning and bring up Evan Gattis, whose 24 RBIs in June lead baseball. Gattis lined a ball into shallow left field that Alex Gordon had to dive to catch — and as a result, Yuli Gurriel was able to scurry home and tie the game 3-3.

"He made some good pitches," manager Ned Yost said. "It was off the end of the bat."

Without the ability to get on base against an Astros bullpen that threw six scoreless innings, Maurer's misfortune sealed the Royals’ fate.

In search of a spark on offense, the Royals activated Lucas Duda before the game. Duda had been on the disabled list since May 14 because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

But on an evening where the Royals tallied five hits, it was the strength of rookie Dozier, the Royals’ 2013 first-round draft pick who hass filled in for Duda at first base for more than a month, that almost brought a victory.

Dozier launched his fourth home run of the season in the fourth inning against Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. Dozier clobbered a 95 mph pitch that was left in the middle of the zone, a mistake that left McCullers shaking his head, a hit that scored all three runs for the Royals.

Before the game, Yost didn’t know how to provide a clear answer about Dozier’s future. It was too early, he said, to judge when he hadn’t seen if Duda could play the field without discomfort yet. (Duda, by the way, was a designated hitter in four rehab games with Class AAA Omaha.)

Needled, Yost admitted, yes, Dozier would be “mixed in” more. Starts in right field loom in his future; he’ll get a chance to man third base, where he played before the Royals encouraged him to become more versatile.

No matter how fluid Yost said the plans might be, one thing appears certain: The Royals don’t intend to return Dozier to the minor leagues for the time being.

And Saturday’s homer — his first career opposite-field shot, one muscled into the right-field seats and thrown back into the field by spurned Astros fans — only strengthened Dozier’s case.

"He just threw me a fastball and I was able to make good contact," Dozier said. "My last full year in the minors in 2016 I hit quite a few the opposite way. That’s kind of my approach, hitting it to right-center."

But it wasn’t enough.

One night after the Royals had Herrera in ice water, and not even 24 hours after Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” and Usher’s “Yeah” had been pumped into the visiting clubhouse speakers, the Royals were silenced again.

The Royals’ offensive woes — which weren’t solved Friday night, when they hit 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded a small army on base — rolled right into Saturday.

"Hunter gave us a big lift with a three-run jack, but we couldn’t really muster anything outside of that," Yost said. "If we can just find a way to tack on a run here or there it would be beneficial for us."

The Royals are now hitting .187 for the month of June, the only MLB team hitting below .200 this month. They are last in the majors in runs scored (271) this season. They entered Saturday with a paltry .370 slugging percentage that ranked 29th.

Not even Duda’s return to the lineup could spark a reversal.

Outside of a two-run frame in which Jose Altuve doubled and scored and Gurriel smashed a solo homer, the Astros barely touched Royals starter Kennedy. The Royals starting pitcher out-dueled McCullers, who was charged three runs on four hits and struck out nine, by wielding an arsenal of four-seam fastballs, knuckle curves and sliders that kept the Astros off balance. Of the 20 balls put in play by the Astros, barely any hard contact was made: The exit velocity on Houston’s batted balls averaged 87.6 mph.

For months, Kennedy has hung onto a winless streak. On Saturday, it extended to 14 as the Royals dropped to 23-53.

"I don’t know — teams are bound to get you once or twice," said Kennedy, who entered with a 1.99 ERA in five career starts against Houston. "Not yet (with the Astros)."

Astros 4, Royals 3

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield cf

5

0

0

0

0

4

.280

Herrera rf

4

0

0

0

1

1

.200

Moustakas 3b

5

0

1

0

0

0

.258

Perez c

5

1

1

0

0

2

.222

Duda dh

4

0

1

0

0

2

.255

Mondesi pr-dh

1

0

0

0

0

1

.200

Gordon lf

4

1

1

0

1

2

.262

Dozier 1b

4

1

1

3

0

2

.228

Escobar ss

4

0

0

0

0

1

.205

Goins 2b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.219



Houston

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Springer cf-rf

5

1

0

0

1

2

.272

Bregman 3b

5

0

1

0

1

1

.263

Altuve 2b

3

1

1

0

3

1

.346

Correa ss

5

0

1

2

0

1

.269

Gurriel 1b

4

1

2

1

0

0

.300

Marisnick pr-cf

1

1

0

0

0

0

.173

Reddick rf-lf

4

0

2

0

0

0

.247

Gattis dh

4

0

0

1

0

0

.247

Gonzalez lf-1b

3

0

0

0

2

3

.250

McCann c

5

0

1

0

0

0

.215



Kansas City

000

300

000

000

3

5

2

Houston

000

200

001

001

4

8

1

No outs when winning run scored. E—Escobar (7), Goins (1), Peacock (1). LOB—Kansas City 3, Houston 12. 2B—Altuve (21). HR—Dozier (4), off McCullers; Gurriel (3), off Kennedy. RBIs—Dozier 3 (11), Correa 2 (49), Gurriel (32), Gattis (48). CS—Mondesi (1). SF—Correa, Gattis. S—Reddick. DP—Houston 1.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Kennedy

7

4

2

2

1

5

5.09

Peralta, H, 1

1

0

0

0

1

0

3.38

Maurer, BS, 3-3

1

2

1

1

1

1

11.05

Smith

2

0

0

0

2

2

6.40

Grimm, L, 1-3

0

2

1

1

2

0

13.50

Houston

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

McCullers

6

4

3

3

2

9

3.82

Peacock

1

0

0

0

0

1

2.23

Sipp

1

0

0

0

0

0

2.04

Harris

1

1

0

0

0

1

4.00

Devenski

2

0

0

0

0

2

1.42

McHugh, W, 3-0

1

0

0

0

0

3

1.09

Peacock pitched to 1 batter in the 8th. Inherited runners-scored—Sipp 1-0. WP—McCullers, Kennedy. T—3:55. A—40,028 (41,168).

  Comments