Finding a suitable low-note encore for losing a series at Houston is no easy task, but the Royals pulled it off Thursday night by becoming the first club to roll over for Angels right-hander Joe Blanton.
Yep, that’s where things are at the moment after Los Angeles backed Blanton with a four-homer barrage against former teammate Ervin Santana in a 5-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium in the opener to a four-game weekend series.
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Blanton entered the night at 0-7 with a 6.62 ERA and absorbed a beating just 10 days ago from the Royals at Angels Stadium, when he yielded seven runs and 12 hits in 42/3 innings.
“He seemed like he was trying to be more of a finesse guy and hit spots,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “He was getting ahead with the fastball with a lot of guys. It was like he was trying to get strike one and then hit spots.”
The Royals managed just two runs and seven hits over 62/3innings against Blanton in the rematch. Sean Burnett, Michael Kohn, Scott Downs, Garrett Richards, Ernesto Frieri and Robert Coello then held on for the victory.
Frieri gave up two runs in the ninth before Coello ended the game, with the tying and winning runs on base, by retiring Alcides Escobar on a soft fly to right.
So, yes, it got interesting.
“We made their bullpen work a lot in the first game of the series,” second baseman Chris Getz said. “They’ve thrown some pitches so, obviously, they’re going to be in a little bit of jam. Hopefully, that pays off.”
Lorenzo Cain grounded a one-out single through the left side and took second on defensive indifference. Salvy Perez lined an RBI single into center before exiting for pinch-runner David Lough.
The Royals then used two pinch-hitters: Elliot Johnson fouled out, but George Kottaras, after Lough took second on indifference, pulled an RBI single through the right side.
A walk to Chris Getz put the winning run on base before Coello retired Escobar for his first save.
“That shows the character of the team,” Hosmer said. “We’re not going to quit in here. Times are rough right now. Especially offensively. We’ve just got to take positives from that ninth inning and keep playing.”
Mike Trout set the tone with a towering one-out homer in the first inning. Albert Pujols opened the fourth inning with a no-doubt blast in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.
Chris Iannetta found the Royals’ bullpen beyond the left-field wall while leading off the fifth before Mark Trumbo finished Santana with a two-run drive into that same bullpen on a 3-0 pitch with two outs in the eighth.
Manager Ned Yost claimed blame for Trumbo’s homer for not calling for an intentional walk with a base open once the count went to 3-0.
“Absolutely,” Yost said. “That was a bad decision on my part. I could tell you my thinking, but it was a bad decision. That one was on me.”
The four homers allowed matched Santana’s career high. He also yielded four on April 24, 2012, while pitching for the Angels in a 5-0 loss at Tampa Bay.
“It’s not frustrating,” he said. “I was just disappointed in myself for what happened today.”
Santana, 3-4, lost his third straight start, while the Royals fell two games under .500, at 21-23, for the first time since opening the season with two losses. They have lost six of their last seven and 13 of their last 17.
Trumbo’s homer seemed to put the game away after the Royals left the tying runs on base in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
“These guys have a lot of power,” Yost said. “I thought Trout’s home run was extremely impressive for him to take a pitch down and drive it that far over the center-field fence.
“Of course, we all know what Albert Pujols can do with a pitch. The two pitches we’d like to have back were the slider to Iannetta and the Trumbo 3-0 pitch.”
Blanton, 1-7, carried a 3-2 lead into the seventh, which Hosmer opened with a single. Cain’s grounder to short resulted in a force at second before Perez blooped a single into center. Cain took third.
The Angels called on Burnett for a left-on-left matchup against Mike Moustakas, but the Royals countered by sending up Miguel Tejada as a pinch-hitter.
Tejada grounded into a double play.
After Trumbo’s homer made it 5-2, the Angels used three pitchers to get through the eighth, when two walks enabled the Royals to get Billy Butler to the plate as the tying run with two outs.
Butler grounded into a force at second. He was hitless in four at-bats and twice stranded runners in scoring position.
“We’ve had some chances, some opportunities,” Yost said. “Billy is just off right now. He’s flying off the ball. They’ve been pounding him in. A lot of ground balls to short right now.”