Looking to snap a seven-game skid against the Astros, the Royals’ bats were as silent for most of the night as Kauffman Stadium’s malfunctioning public-address system was for the first 2 1/2 innings.
Thanks to six strong innings from a resurgent Danny Duffy and the Royals’ electrifying bullpen, Houston’s attack was just as quiet.
Each team scratched out a run on a sacrifice fly against the opposing starter, and the game wasn’t settled until extra innings, when Alcides Escobar’s flare into shallow right field nestled in the grass as Paulo Orlando dashed home from second to secure a 2-1 win.
The victory was magnified because the Royals must tangle with Dallas Keuchel in Sunday’s series finale. Keuchel leads the American League with 12 wins and a 2.12 ERA.
“That goes through your mind all night long, ‘This is a game we’ve got to have, because we’ve got a tough task ahead of us (Sunday),’ ” Yost said. “So, it was important that we got this one.”
Escobar delivered the fourth walk-off win since July 3 for the Royals, who didn’t have any walk-off victories during the first three months of the season.
The Astros played shallow the opposite way in the outfield throughout the night against the Royals, but Colby Rasmus couldn’t play shallow enough to snare Escobar’s flare.
Orlando, who socked a walk-off grand slam July 7 against Tampa Bay, set the stage with a one-out single.
He swiped second on a delayed steal with two outs and raced home when Escobar looped the ball over second baseman Jose Altuve’s head and in front of Rasmus.
“When I saw (Rasmus) was playing to the line and Altuve was playing to the middle, I said (to myself), ‘No chance,’ ” Escobar said.
He knew the game was over, but Rasmus got much closer than anyone expected when the ball left Escobar’s bat.
“About the seventh or eighth inning, I was just kind of taking my hat off to their defensive placement,” Yost said. “It was really good. … It can frustrate you, and I kept fighting that. I didn’t want to get frustrated, because guys were hitting the balls on the nose and they were right there.”
Orlando bounded down the third-base line, and the Royals’ dugout emptied in Escobar’s direction to cap a surreal night.
Without the benefits of the stadium’s speaker system, Sluggerrr led the crowd in an a cappella national anthem.
The announced crowd of 38,393 — the season’s 16th sellout — also provided the only sound aside from the splashing fountains during the next 2 1/2 innings before the system was repaired.
“It was weird, really weird,” Yost said. “They told me no audio and I thought, ‘OK, fine,’ but I was really uncomfortable for two innings. I guess you’re just so used to the music and you’re used to the announcer. It was a strange, strange feeling, and I literally was uncomfortable. I was really happy when I heard that organ go, ‘wha-wha-wha-wha-wha.’ ”
Duffy, who scattered three hits and a walk with three strikeouts in six innings, didn’t seem to mind the toned-down atmosphere.
“It was different,” Duffy said. “It felt like the fans were 10 times more behind us than normal, which is crazy because we’ve got the best fans in baseball. It was cool.”
Astros right-hander Scott Feldman was every bit as good. He faced the minimum and allowed only one hit and two base runners through the first six innings.
Houston drew first blood, nicking Duffy for a run in the sixth when Altuve reached on a one-out single and scored on Carlos Correa’s sacrifice fly to center sandwiched around a Marwin Gonzalez double.
That ended an impressive stretch for Duffy, who allowed one run in 24 innings since Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks led off the third inning July 5 with a home run.
Duffy, who has helped lead the Royals to victory in five of his last six starts, is 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA in six starts since returning June 24 from the disabled list after a bout with left biceps tendinitis.
“He was great,” Yost said. “The conditions were tough and the air was real thick and real hot and humid. He just pitched great. … You knew it was just a matter of time before Danny got back going.”
The Royals answered in the seventh when Alcides Escobar reached on an infield single and scored on a Salvador Perez sacrifice fly sandwiched around Kendrys Morales’ ground-rule double to right-center field.
That ended a stretch of miserable offense for the Royals, who had scored one run in the previous 24 innings.
The game also served as the Royals’ Viva Los Reales promotion in celebration of Hispanic heritage. The team wore “Los Reales” jerseys and handed out Yordano Ventura bobbleheads before the game.
Reliever Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless 10th for the victory.
“It means a lot, because the game was dedicated to Latin heritage,” Herrera said. “But the most important thing is we got a win.”
Herrera finished off a relief relay that also included scoreless innings from Ryan Madson, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
Eric Hosmer missed an opposite-field, walk-off home run in the ninth inning by a foot.
Hosmer slashed a 92-mph sinker from Pat Neshek into the left-field corner, where the ball caromed off the fencing above the padded, dark-green wall.
The blast landed a few inches over the glove of a leaping Preston Tucker, but not quite deep enough to end the game.
He was stranded at third when Astros rookie shortstop Correa picked up a roller by Alex Rios and gunned the ball across the infield with a leaping throw from deep in the hole to force extra innings.