Royals reliever Tim Collins hadn’t allowed a homer, period, since last Sept. 14 when he entered a tie game Tuesday night in the seventh inning.
The last time he served up one, if ever, to a left-handed hitter on an 0-2 pitch is the sort of thing that stirs the folks at Elias into serious action. (No answer yet.) You see where this is going?
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Yes, he did.
Jason Heyward jumped that pitch, a hanging curve, and the result was a homer that sent the Royals to a 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves, who had never before played at Kauffman Stadium.
“In that situation,” Collins said, “you don’t want to give him anything to hit. The only thing he could hit is something over the plate.
“He stays on the curveball, up and over the plate, pretty good. You want to stay away from it.”
There was more — and it was even tougher for Royals to swallow.
They put runners at first and third with no outs in the ninth inning against Braves closer Craig Kimbel ... and squandered the opportunity.
“I’d much rather it be one-two-three,” Kimbrel said, “but whenever you walk the leadoff batter in a one-run ballgame, you put yourself in a sticky situation. We were able to work out of it.”
Kimbrel struck out two hitters, Elliot Johnson and Jarrod Dyson, before issuing an intentional walk to Alex Gordon after falling into a 2-0 hole. Kimbrel then ended the game by retiring Alcides Escobar on a fly to right.
“You’ve got to put the ball in play in that situation (with Johnson and Dyson) to give yourself a chance,” manager Ned Yost said. “But we couldn’t do it.”
Heyward’s homer broke a 3-3 tie and was the first yielded by Collins, 2-2, in 37 outings.
“I was just looking for a pitch in the zone to hit and trying not to miss it,” Heyward said. “I put a good swing on it. I wasn’t trying to hit a homer. I was just trying to hit it hard.”
Earlier, Heyward had a two-run double in a three-run fifth against Royals starter Ervin Santana, which staked the Braves to a 3-1 lead.
Atlanta starter Kris Medlen, rearmed with the lead after Heyward’s homer, struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“You can’t give away two leads,” Medlin said. “For J-Hey to come up and hit that ball, I knew I needed to have a nail-down inning.”
Medlen, 5-7, got the victory when Jordan Walden and Kimbrel wobbled through the final two innings. Kimbrel got his 22nd save in 25 chances.
The Royals also got the tying run to third in the the eighth after Walden started the inning by walking Escobar, who went to second on a wild pickoff throw with one out.
Walden rallied by striking out Billy Butler on a nasty 1-2 slider. Escobar swiped third without a throw, but Walden retired Salvy Perez on a routine fly to right.
The Royals quickly put Kimbrel in a hole when Mike Moustakas battled back from a 1-2 hole for a leadoff walk. David Lough followed with a single to right that moved Moustakas to third.
Kimbel struck out Johnson on three pitches.
“Even a ground ball gets the guy in,” Johnson said. “Even if it’s a double play. That’s what I was going for, first pitch, and it was way out of the zone. I rolled the dice. I went first-pitch fastball.”
It was a breaking ball in the dirt, and Johnson never recovered.
Lough stole second, which put the winning run in scoring position with one out, but Kimbrel shrugged it off by freezing Dyson on a wicked breaking ball for a called third strike.
“I thought it was going to be away,” Dyson said. “It came right in there. I couldn’t do anything with it.”
Kimbrel walked Gordon before retiring Escobar on a fly to right.
It meant another disappointing night in front of a big crowd -- 29,947. The Royals have lost seven in a row at home when playing in front at 29,000 or more.
Santana worked around trouble in the early innings, with the help of some glittering defense, but coughed up a one-run lead by surrendering three runs in the fifth.
Chris Johnson started inning with a double to left. Andrelton Simmons failed twice in attempting a sacrifice bunt before pulling a single through the left side.
Jordan Shafer followed by yanking an RBI double past first, which put runners at second and third with no outs. Heyward then served a two-run double into right that gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead.
The Royals responded immediately and did so in a manner that is out of character but immensely encouraging.
Escobar pulled a two-out single to left, and Eric Hosmer followed with a 404-foot drive to right for a two-run homer.
Santana worked a brisk sixth inning before exiting, breaking a streak of seven straight starts of at least seven innings. He gave up three runs and six hits while throwing 102 pitches.
In came Collins and...yep. Heyward. On an 0-2 hanger.
“Right pitch, bad location,” Collins said. “That’s the pitch I wanted to throw. I just didn’t want to throw it in that location.”