Royals

Lorenzo Cain’s home run in 13th inning lifts Royals to wild 7-6 victory over White Sox

The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain (right) celebrated with teammate Eric Hosmer after Cain hit a solo home run in the 13th inning against the White Sox on Saturday in Chicago. The Royals won 7-6.
The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain (right) celebrated with teammate Eric Hosmer after Cain hit a solo home run in the 13th inning against the White Sox on Saturday in Chicago. The Royals won 7-6. The Associated Press

The palette of the sky above U.S. Cellular Field shifted from blue to gray to black during the last three ragged hours of Saturday’s marathon. The tableau formed a fitting backdrop for a shape-shifting game between the Royals and White Sox.

Thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and the sun broke through the clouds — and sometimes all in the same inning — as a game teetered between two weary clubs.

Yet the sky settled back into a brilliant blue when Lorenzo Cain unloaded on a slider from Chicago reliever Dan Jennings in the 13th. The baseball soared over the left-field fence, which allowed Kansas City to grab a 7-6 lead, the only one on this day the Royals did not relinquish. Cain showed no signs of fatigue as he raced around the bases.

“I was hoping for anybody on this team to hit a home run, at that point,” Cain said. “But I ended up doing it. I’m happy – everybody’s ready to get out of here and move on to tomorrow.”

Welcome to the second half: The Royals, 54-35, played 31 innings in two days, White Sox ace Chris Sale looms on Sunday and the team won’t have a day off again until Aug. 3. To survive Saturday, Kansas City deployed eight pitchers in a game that lasted four hours and 56 minutes, thanks in part to Greg Holland’s third blown save of the season.

The game spanned multitudes. Kansas City opened with a first-inning flurry. Both teams weathered flash thunderstorms in the middle innings. Then the Royals displayed enough depth in their relief corps to escape with a victory.

“It was a big relief,” manager Ned Yost said. “That game took a toll on both teams’ bullpens. It was really important to try to squeak this one out.”

The afternoon managed to reveal the team’s weaknesses while still somehow highlighting its strengths. Their starting pitching remains suspect: Jeremy Guthrie surrendered a three-run lead across five innings. The loss of Alex Gordon weakened both the lineup and the outfield defense. And Holland is less reliable than in past years, as his ERA rose to 3.14 thanks to inexact command of his slider and splitter.

Yet there are defensive gems to be found, like Mike Moustakas’ leaping grab to start a game-ending double play in the last frame. There is the brilliance of Cain, who recorded three hits, walked twice and scored twice. There is the remarkable depth of the bullpen, which shrugged aside failures by two of its most heralded members en route to victory.

In the seventh inning, Kelvin Herrera allowed a game-tying solo shot to shortstop Alexei Ramirez. His teammates picked him up with a two-run rally in the eighth. But in the ninth, Holland gave up a curious, two-run double by outfielder J.B. Shuck.

Holland watched the next four innings from the dugout. He felt disgusted with himself as he saw Luke Hochevar, Brandon Finnegan and Ryan Madson log scoreless frames. Finnegan lasted two innings. Madson recorded his first save since Sept. 26, 2011.

But still Holland stewed, aware of the stress games like this place on a club. He called his performance “inexcusable.”

“I’ve got to be better, because you can’t be running out your bullpen like that,” Holland said. “Fortunately, we got a win.”

His tone was glum. It was his third blown save of the season, and it arose suddenly. There were two outs when White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche came to the plate. The Royals had just jumped ahead thanks to their eighth-inning rally, when Moustakas recorded a sacrifice fly and Kendrys Morales walked with the bases loaded.

Then Holland threw LaRoche a splitter down the middle. LaRoche punched it into right field. Next Holland could not find the zone against Ramirez.

Up came Shuck, a slap hitter who had homered just four times in 250 games in the big leagues heading into Saturday. In situations like this, some clubs often push their outfielders closer to the fence, a strategy known generally as “no-doubles defense.” The Royals do not practice this strategy for pitchers like Holland, who they feel is more likely to give up a bloop single than a well-smashed extra-base hit.

“Very seldom do we play no-doubles in the outfield when our closer’s in the game,” Yost said. “Our guys are so good that we get 98 balls in front (of the outfielders) and two balls behind (the outfielders), because of their stuff.”

Holland could not find the sharpness necessary to match the outfield alignment. He hung a slider to Shuck, who punched a drive to the left of left fielder Jarrod Dyson. The route from Dyson resembled a banana’s curve, rather than a straight line, but it’s unclear if a perfect path would have allowed him to snag the baseball.

Holland, for one, did not feel he deserved such fortune.

“I thought I got lucky, off the bat,” Holland said. “I thought it was a flyball. But the wind was pushing that way. When you throw bad pitches, you don’t get lucky that often.”

It was the second outfield play on the day worth studying. The Royals handed a one-run lead to Herrera in the seventh after Paulo Orlando raked an RBI double. His hit scored Alex Rios, who contributed two hits. But it was his glove that drew attention.

With two outs in the seventh, Herrera flung a 99-mph fastball over the middle. Ramirez hammered it to right field. The baseball raced through the wind and the rain as Rios retreated to the wall. He did not leap high, and the baseball skimmed the top of the fence.

It was the third homer Herrera has allowed this season. Yost declined to say whether he thought Rios could have prevented it.

“I didn’t see the replay,” Yost said. “I couldn’t tell. It looked to me like he kind of got hung up in the fence a little bit.”

By that point, the Royals had already watched a three-run lead leak away. The lineup managed just four hits in six innings against White Sox lefty John Danks on Friday night. A day later, the group amassed that many hits in four at-bats against White Sox starter Jose Quintana, and five hits in six at-bats.

Moustakas smacked an RBI double. Eric Hosmer added an RBI single. Salvador Perez completed the barrage with an RBI double.

But then, in drips and drabs, Guthrie yielded to the White Sox. Melky Cabrera hit an RBI single in the third. Adam Eaton did the same in the fourth. A sacrifice fly tied the proceedings in the fifth. Guthrie gave up nine hits in all.

“I made some pitches that probably weren’t the right pitch selection,” Guthrie said. “For the most part, most of them were executed. But things I had planned for, in the heat of battle, I just kind of chose the wrong pitches. Fortunately, I was able to limit the damage to the one run each time.”

Despite the seesaw of the game, the White Sox never led. After Shuck’s two-run hit, Chicago could not advance a runner past second base. The Royals also appeared to lack interest in offense.

Then Cain stepped in against Jennings.

The first pitch was a slider. Right down the middle. Cain passed. Jennings threw another slider. This was a ball. Cain decided he would not let a third slider hang without receiving punishment.

“I’m glad he didn’t throw a fastball there,” Cain said.

The pitch floated inside and buckled just at Cain’s knees. Cain crushed it. The home run awakened his bench and roused the few Kansas City fans still here in the Windy City.

Another victory would soon follow. The day lasted nearly five hours, far longer than Kansas City wanted. The game exposed their flaws. It also reminded of their strengths: That bullpen, that resilience, that budding star of a center fielder, Cain.

“It took awhile,” Cain said. “But we ended up getting the win.”

Royals 7, White Sox 6, 13 inn.

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

A.Escobar ss

6

1

3

0

1

0

.293

Moustakas 3b

6

1

1

2

0

0

.294

L.Cain cf

5

2

3

1

2

0

.322

Hosmer 1b

7

0

2

1

0

3

.287

K.Morales dh

5

0

2

1

1

0

.282

S.Perez c

6

0

1

1

0

2

.256

Infante 2b

7

0

1

0

0

2

.232

Rios rf

4

1

2

0

0

0

.243

1-J.Dyson pr-lf

1

1

0

0

1

0

.257

Orlando lf-rf

5

1

2

1

1

1

.248

Totals

52

7

17

7

6

8

Chicago

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Eaton cf

6

1

2

1

1

2

.249

Saladino 3b

7

0

2

0

0

2

.304

Cabrera lf

7

1

2

1

0

0

.259

Abreu 1b

5

0

1

0

0

2

.289

LaRoche dh

5

0

1

0

0

1

.219

2-Beckham pr-dh

1

1

0

0

0

0

.195

Ramirez ss

4

2

2

2

1

0

.226

Shuck rf

5

1

2

2

1

1

.284

Flowers c

4

0

0

0

0

2

.228

a-Garcia ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.276

Soto c

1

0

1

0

0

0

.239

Sanchez 2b

5

0

1

0

1

2

.190

Totals

51

6

14

6

4

12

Kansas City

300

001

020

000

1

7

17

1

Chicago

001

110

102

000

0

6

14

1

a-grounded out for Flowers in the 9th.

1-ran for Rios in the 8th. 2-ran for LaRoche in the 9th.

E: Rios (3), Da.Jennings (2). LOB: Kansas City 15, Chicago 12. 2B: Moustakas (17), L.Cain (21), S.Perez (13), Rios (6), Orlando (4), Shuck 2 (5), Soto (6). HR: L.Cain (9), off Da.Jennings; Al.Ramirez (3), off K.Herrera. RBIs: Moustakas 2 (34), L.Cain (44), Hosmer (46), K.Morales (62), S.Perez (39), Orlando (15), Eaton (20), Me.Cabrera (35), Al.Ramirez 2 (29), Shuck 2 (9). SB: J.Dyson (12). SF: Moustakas, Al.Ramirez.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 9 (Infante 3, Moustakas 2, S.Perez 2, A.Escobar, J.Dyson); Chicago 7 (LaRoche 2, Saladino, Flowers 2, Av.Garcia, C.Sanchez). RISP: Kansas City 6 for 22; Chicago 3 for 9. Runners moved up: Orlando, LaRoche. GIDP: Moustakas, K.Morales. DP: Kansas City 1 (Moustakas, Hosmer); Chicago 3 (Al.Ramirez, C.Sanchez, Abreu), (C.Sanchez, Al.Ramirez, Abreu), (Eaton, Al.Ramirez).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Guthrie

5

9

3

3

1

3

5.36

Morales

1

0

0

0

1

0

2.41

Herrera

1

1

1

1

1

0

2.08

Davis

1

0

0

0

0

2

0.44

Holland

1

2

2

2

1

1

3.14

Hochevar

1

0

0

0

0

3

3.60

Finnegan W, 3-0

2

1

0

0

0

2

2.96

Madson S, 1

1

1

0

0

0

1

1.91

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Quintana

5.1

10

4

4

1

4

3.83

Putnam

1.2

2

0

0

0

2

3.60

Petricka

0

2

2

2

1

0

3.27

Duke

1

0

0

0

2

1

2.87

Webb

1.1

0

0

0

2

0

1.26

Jennings L, 1-3

3.2

3

1

1

0

1

6.59

Petricka pitched to 3 batters in the 8th.

Blown saves: K.Herrera (3), G.Holland (3). Holds: W.Davis (14), F.Morales (5). Inherited runners-scored: Putnam 1-0, Duke 3-2, Da.Jennings 1-0. IW: off Duke (L.Cain). HBP: by Guthrie (Abreu), by Putnam (K.Morales), by Quintana (S.Perez). WP: Da.Jennings. PB: Flowers.

Umpires: Home, Jerry Meals; First, Andy Fletcher; Second, Jordan Baker; Third, Paul Emmel. Time: 4:56. Att: 33,559.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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