There’s magic for the Royals in that number four.
As in four runs being their demarcation line between victory and defeat. As in the number on Alex Gordon’s back.
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It was Gordon on Wednesday night who produced a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Atlanta Braves with a one-out slicing blooper against Alex Wood that dropped safely into left field.
“I knew they were going to be fairly careful,” Gordon said. “You’ve got a base open late in the game like that, you’re going to not try to give them too much to hit. So I was just trying to stay simple.”
Gordon got just enough.
David Lough scampered home from second with the winning run. And, no, if you’re wondering, there was no hesitation from third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez in waving home Lough as happened last week in Cleveland.
“I ain’t going to make that mistake twice,” Lough said, “I call tell you that.”
The victory enabled the Royals to gain a split in the two-game series, which marked the Braves’ first visit to Kauffman Stadium since interleague play started in 1997.
“That’s a team that’s leading their division by five games,” manager Ned Yost said. “It’s a good feeling to get on a plane after a hard-fought win like that, and a walk-off win like that.”
The Royals open a four-game series tonight at Minnesota.
Atlanta held on for a 4-3 victory in Tuesday’s opener when the Royals couldn’t produce the tying run in the ninth after putting runners at fist and third with no outs.
Another tough loss loomed Wednesday after the Royals saw a 3-0 lead disappear in the seventh inning. Gordon and Lough saved them from that and produced a celebratory scrum between first and second.
“I was waiting for the barbecue sauce to hit my face, so I had it covered,” Gordon said, “It didn’t happen tonight.”
Lough started the winning rally by grounding a leadoff single up the middle against Wood, 0-2. Miguel Tejada’s sacrifice bunt moved Lough to second for the top of the order.
“I don’t remember my last one,” Tejada said. “But anything we need, I’ll do.”
Gordon’s game-winner got the Royals to their magical four-run threshold. They are 25-5 when they score at least four runs (and 11-34 when they don’t).
“We’ve been on an up-and-down pace lately,” he said. “We’re trying to be a little more consistent. We ended the homestand not too bad, so it’s a good win and, hopefully, it will continue in Minnesota.”
Aaron Crow, 4-3, got the victory after working out of a jam earlier in the inning. Jason Heyward led off with a single to left and, running on a 3-2 pitch, went to second on Justin Upton’s grounder to short.
That prompted an intentional walk to Freddie Freeman before the Royals got just what they needed when Gerald Laird grounded into a third-second-first double play.
“It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t get out of it,” Crow said. “It was hit pretty hard, but Miggy (Tejada) made a good play. And Elliot (Johnson) stayed in there and made a great turn.”
That set the stage for Gordon’s walk-off winner. That was, perhaps, fitting since he had opened the game with a homer and also scored after a leadoff single in the third inning.
“You just got a good feeling about Alex,” Yost said. “He started the game off with the homer and ended up with a base hit and he’s come up clutch in those situations for us and he did it again tonight.”
Royals starter Luis Mendoza carried a three-hit shutout — and a 3-0 lead — into the seventh inning but worked himself into a jam by yielding successive one-out singles by Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson.
Andrelton Simmons’ grounder to short resulted in a force at second but turned over the lineup — and Yost sought a left-on-left matchup by bringing in Bruce Chen to face Jordan Shafer.
That prompted a counter move: Reed Johnson batted for Shafer.
Reed Johnson lined Chen’s first pitch into center for an RBI single. Chen jumped ahead 0-2 on Heyward before losing him to a walk. That loaded the bases and finished Chen.
In came Luke Hochevar to face Justin Upton in a matchup between the first overall picks in the 2006 and 2005 drafts. Upton lined a 1-1 pitch into center for a two-run single.
Lorenzo Cain threw out Heyward at third but not before Johnson scored the tying run. Mendoza’s night ended in a no-decision after allowing two runs and five hits in 62/3 innings.
Atlanta starter Mike Minor also got a no-decision for a line that showed three runs and nine hits in six innings.
Gordon got the Royals off to a quick start by driving Minor’s third pitch over the right-field wall for his first homer in 160 at-bats — dating to May 9 at Baltimore.
It was the Royals’ first leadoff homer since Aug. 11, 2012, when Gordon went deep — also at Baltimore. It was the 10th leadoff homer of his career, which matched Johnny Damon for the third-highest total in club history.
Willie Wilson and David DeJesus each had 11.
The Royals weren’t done.
Billy Butler raked a two-out double into the right-center gap and scored on Salvy Perez’s single to left. Shafer made a strong throw to the plate, but Butler kicked the ball from Laird’s glove on the slide.
Gordon started the third with a single and went to third on Alcides Escobar’s hit-and-run single into center, but the threat nearly fizzled when Escobar roamed too far off first on Eric Hosmer’s liner to short.
The result was a double play, but Butler served a two-out RBI single into right for a 3-0 lead that lasted until the seventh.