And now the Royals are eight games over .500, and they got there Monday night in a 6-2 victory over the Miami Marlins by overcoming some rare defensive bobbles through stout pitching and a balanced 12-hit attack.
They also got there without All-Star left fielder Alex Gordon, who missed a game to attend the birth of his second son, and despite another addition to a growing injury list.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas left the game in the fifth inning because of what club officials classified as tightness in his left calf. It was a calf injury, remember, that recently sent Miguel Tejada to the disabled list.
Moustakas was clearly limping afterward in the clubhouse.
“I’ll be all right,” he insisted. “It’s not bad, but we’ll see (Tuesday).”
As for the game, the Royals spit back a two-run lead by turning sloppy in the Miami sixth before answering with three runs in their half of the inning.
“That game definitely could have taken a different turn after they came back and tied it,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “But we battled back and scored some more runs.
“That’s stuff that winning teams do. I think we’ve turned that corner, and I don’t think anybody in here wants to turn back.”
The Royals got RBIs from six different players. Six players also scored one run apiece. Justin Maxwell and Alcides Escobar each broke ties with RBI triples, in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively.
Butler rocked a 419-foot homer in the seventh. Chris Getz marked his return from the disabled list with three singles. David Lough, Escobar and Butler each had two hits.
“I’ve been watching a lot of these games on TV while I was on that rehab stint,” Getz said. “It looked like they were having so much fun on the field. I know the fun they’re having in (the clubhouse).
“So I was real excited to get back and just be a part of it.”
The Royals moved to 62-54 by winning for the 19th time in 24 games since the All-Star break. They haven’t been eight games over .500 this late in the season since they stood 82-74 on Sept. 22, 2003.
The Royals jumped past Cleveland into second place in the American League Central and pulled within 61/2 games of first-place Detroit. They also closed within four games of Tampa Bay for the final wild-card spot.
“You watch what other teams are doing,” Butler admitted. “You can’t help but watch Detroit is doing. I noticed Cleveland lost tonight. We jumped in front of them, and it’s a great feeling.”
Wade Davis, 6-9, made his first start since Aug. 2 and held the Marlins to two runs and six hits in six innings. He returned Sunday from seven days of family emergency leave following the death of his stepbrother.
“Wade threw the ball great and got us through six innings,” manager Ned Yost said. “I was real impressed by the way he threw the ball.”
Davis’ thoughts on his performance were only available to those reporters willing to wait for him to finish eating. All that matters, really, is he handed a 5-2 lead to reliever Louis Coleman to start the seventh inning.
Coleman got two outs but also gave up a single and a walk, which brought Tim Collins to face Logan Morrison. A walk loaded the bases, but Collins stranded all three runners by retiring Ed Lucas on a fly to left.
Butler then opened the bottom of the inning with a 419-foot homer to left against reliever Ryan Webb for the game’s final run. Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar closed out the victory.
Miami starter Tom Koehler, 3-8, didn’t allow a hit until two outs in the fourth, but he gave up two runs that inning and three more in the sixth before exiting.
“They didn’t hit him hard,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said, “but they made the most of their hits. Hits down the line, soft stuff, chopper off the plate.”
The Royals didn’t get their first hit until Moustakas beat Koehler to first on a grounder to first for a two-out single in the fourth inning. That turned into the game’s first run when Maxwell drove a triple into the right-center gap.
Getz followed by grounding a single up the middle for a 2-0 lead.
Moustakas came up grimacing on his slide at home but played through the Miami fifth before leaving for a pinch hitter, newcomer Jamey Carroll, in the bottom of that inning.
Miami pulled even in a two-run sixth included two errors and one — well, let’s say — play not made by the Royals’ outfield. Unusual stuff.
A two-base whiff by Jarrod Dyson on Giancarlo Stanton’s one-out single to center put a runner at third.
“I’ve got to get in front of that ball,” Dyson said. “That was all on me. If we had lost that game, I would have been (‘very annoyed’ is a loose translation) because it would have been on me.”
Morrison then sent a drive to deep right that Maxwell seemed to reach — but didn’t reach. The ball fell for an RBI double.
Davis struck out Lucas on three pitches, but Greg Dobbs tied the game with a double into the right-field corner. Dobbs went to third when Maxwell misplayed the carom for another error before Davis ended the inning.
The Royals answered immediately with three runs.
Getz punched a one-out single up the middle, Escobar followed by slicing a full-count pitch into short right. It should have been a single, but Stanton reciprocated for the Royals’ miscues by failing to cut off the ball.
It was scored an RBI triple, and the Royals led 3-2.
The Marlins shortened their infield, but it didn’t matter when Dyson hit a high infield chop to the left of the mound. Lucas fielded it from third but had no play at home and couldn’t get Dyson at first.
An infield single. And it was 4-2.
“I told them I would get that run back (from the error) at some point,” Dyson said. “I had to get it back. That was the goal going into that at-bat.”
Dyson wasn’t done.
Dan Jennings replaced Koehler and, after Dyson stole second, surrendered an RBI single to Lough for a 5-2 lead. The Royals’ bullpen took it from there.
“We’re taking advantage of everything we can do,” Dyson said. “It’s all clicking at once.”