Royals

Royals pull off a miracle, beat White Sox 8-7 in walk-off win

Royals rookie Brett Eibner discusses walk-off single

The Royals scored seven runs in the ninth inning on Saturday, beating the Chicago White 8-7. Rookie Brett Eibner had two hits in the inning.
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The Royals scored seven runs in the ninth inning on Saturday, beating the Chicago White 8-7. Rookie Brett Eibner had two hits in the inning.

Art Stewart pressed through a doorway here on late Saturday afternoon, an 89-year-old scout toting a cane made from a baseball bat, the venerable sage of Kansas City baseball offering an incredulous smile. Stewart had just witnessed the greatest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history from his usual scout seat near home plate. He had watched the most epic and inexplicable regular-season rally in the 48-year history of the Kansas City Royals, and as he bounded into a victorious clubhouse, he veered to his right, toward the locker of first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was slipping on a pair of basketball shoes.

“You had to see it to believe it!” Stewart said, his voice rising above the noise in the room. “You had to see it believe it. Have you ever seen it before?”

Yes, you had to see Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium to fully internalize what had transpired, the Royals erasing a six-run deficit and scoring seven runs in the bottom of the ninth inning in an 8-7 victory over the Chicago White Sox. You had to see reserve catcher Drew Butera delivering a pinch-hit, game-tying double off flame-throwing reliever Tommy Kahnle before removing his helmet and flipping his hair at second base. You had to see rookie Brett Eibner, in the second game of his career, lining a walk-off single past first baseman Jose Abreu with two outs and the bases loaded, setting off a madhouse scene and turning an old concrete stadium into a wall of noise.

You had to see the Royals, just minutes after watching their All-Star catcher Salvador Perez go down with a scary leg injury, author another preposterous comeback for a franchise now synonymous with them, piecing together a rally that featured 12 batters, six hits, four walks, seven runs and Butera tackling Eibner from behind during a raucous celebration in right field.

“I can’t explain it, man,” Eibner said.

“Definitely one of the crazier regular season games,” Hosmer said.

“It just developed,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “It’s sure going to make the couch feel a lot softer tonight.”

In the immediate aftermath, Yost said Perez sustained a “quad contusion” on his left thigh after a violent collision with third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert on an infield popup near the third base line. The Royals do not believe Perez suffered any structural damage to his knee, Yost said, but they will know more Sunday after seeing the results of an MRI.

That Perez was even still in the game in the ninth inning was its own story. When the inning began, the Royals were losing 7-1 following a horrendous performance from starting pitcher Yordano Ventura. In the stands, an announced crowd of 31,598 was thinning. Inside the dugout, Yost pondered removing Perez and allowing Butera to catch the final inning.

"It’s funny,” Yost said. “You just get little funny feelings as a manager, and Salvador made the last out in the (eighth) inning, and for a second, I thought: ‘You know what, I’ll let Drew catch the ninth.’

“But I just kept thinking, this team has a way of battling back and finding ways to make things happen.”

If Perez’s quad injury requires a trip to the 15-day disabled list — or perhaps something worse — Saturday’s victory could feel somewhat pyrrhic. But as the afternoon turned to evening, and Stewart stopped in front of Hosmer’s locker, the unprecedented nature of the afternoon began to sink in. The ninth inning comeback was the largest in club history, eclipsing a win at Milwaukee on June 15, 1979. (The Royals had trailed by five runs entering the top of the ninth.)

The victory clinched a fifth straight series victory and pulled Kansas City, 26-22, even with the fading White Sox, 27-23, in the American League Central.

When starter Edinson Volquez takes the mound against White Sox ace Chris Sale on Sunday afternoon, the Royals will be just a half-game back of first-place Cleveland, 26-21.

“This is huge,” Hosmer said. “Not only the win, but it’s against Chicago, the team that was winning the division."

So how to explain Saturday afternoon? Perhaps you can start here: With a 7-1 lead entering the ninth inning, White Sox manager Robin Ventura still elected to use his closer, David Robertson. Minutes later, Robertson struck out Paulo Orlando on a 91 mph cutter. The Royals trailed by six runs. They were down to their final two outs.

History will show that the rally began with a single up the middle from Cheslor Cuthbert, who was nursing his own quad injury after barreling into Perez in the top of the inning. Eibner followed with a deep drive to right field that Chicago’s Adam Eaton lost in the sun.

The ball bounced off the wall, and Robertson issued walks to Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar, which sliced the lead to 7-2. That brought up Whit Merrifield, who laced a hard chopper that flicked off Robertson’s glove and past the second baseman for a two-run single. If Eaton had tracked the baseball better, or Robertson completed the double play, the comeback would have likely died a few runs short. Instead, Lorenzo Cain followed by beating out a double-play ball that cut the lead to 7-5.

“They just keep coming at you,” White Sox catcher Alex Avila said.

Ventura allowed Robertson to face one more batter. Hosmer roped a 1-0 cutter into the right-center gap, scoring Cain from second base. As the inning progressed, Butera had gazed at the lineup card in the dugout and did the math in his head. After sitting for eight innings, he headed to the indoor batting cage to take some swings.

He faced Kahnle, a Chicago reliever, with two outs and the tying run on second base. He caught up to a 99 mph fastball and shot a ball into the gap in left-center. Hosmer sprinted around third base and tied the game at 7-7.

“You can’t explain how hard that is to be in the bullpen half the game,” Hosmer said. “(He’s) back and forth, not taking any swings, you got a guy throwing 100 on the mound and you come in and put a swing like that on the ball.”

The White Sox would choose to intentionally walk Orlando and Jarrod Dyson, who pinch-hit for Cuthbert. That meant a second at-bat of the inning for Eibner, a 27-year-old who had doubled in his major-league debut on Friday night. In all, Eibner would see 10 pitches, working the count to 3-2. The final was a 98 mph fastball. His swing was quick and compact, the barrel finding the baseball.

“When it got to 3-2, that pitch was right there,” Eibner said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better pitch. I stayed on it and ran as hard as I could."

After two games in the big leagues, Eibner was part of a feat that had never been realized in 7,522 previous Royals games. On a sunny afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals were down by six runs in the ninth inning. The game was over, the result concluded, the Royals were effectively dead — until they weren’t.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Eibner said. “I didn’t think I could beat yesterday.”

Kansas City Royals Brett Eibner talks about getting ready for is major league debut on Friday against he Chicago White Sox.

Royals 8, White Sox 7

Chicago

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Eaton rf

5

0

0

0

0

1

.278

Jackson cf

5

1

3

0

0

0

.257

Frazier 3b

5

0

0

0

0

1

.228

Cabrera lf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.287

Abreu 1b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.247

Lawrie 2b

4

1

2

0

0

1

.251

Avila c

4

2

2

0

0

2

.203

Garcia dh

4

2

2

3

0

0

.259

Saladino ss

4

1

2

3

0

1

.266

Totals

39

7

11

6

0

6

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Escobar ss

4

1

1

1

1

1

.269

Merrifield lf

5

1

2

2

0

1

.375

Cain cf

5

1

2

1

0

0

.287

Hosmer 1b

5

1

2

2

0

2

.310

Perez c

3

0

0

0

1

1

.277

Butera c

1

1

1

1

0

0

.250

Orlando rf

4

0

1

0

1

1

.383

Cuthbert 3b

4

1

1

0

0

1

.254

a-Dyson ph

0

0

0

0

1

0

.264

Eibner dh

5

1

2

1

0

0

.375

Infante 2b

2

1

0

0

2

0

.244

Totals

38

8

12

8

6

7

Chicago

040

210

000

7

11

0

Kansas City

001

000

007

8

12

2

Two outs when winning run scored.

a-walked for Cuthbert in the 9th.

E: Cuthbert (1), Infante (4). LOB: Chicago 5, Kansas City 10. 2B: Jackson (12), Avila (3), Merrifield (4), Cain (6), Hosmer (10), Eibner (2), Butera (4). HR: Saladino (2), off Ventura; Garcia (5), off Ventura. RBIs: Garcia 3 (18), Saladino 3 (11), Escobar (14), Merrifield 2 (4), Cain (26), Hosmer 2 (29), Eibner (1), Butera (3). SB: Merrifield (1), Hosmer (4).

Runners left in scoring position: Chicago 1 (Avila); Kansas City 5 (Escobar 2, Perez 2, Orlando). RISP: Chicago 3 for 8; Kansas City 4 for 13. Runners moved up: Cuthbert.

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Rodon

5

6

1

1

2

3

105

4.24

Putnam

2 1/3

0

0

0

0

2

27

2.49

Duke

 2/3

0

0

0

0

1

12

3.64

Robertson

 2/3

4

6

6

2

1

29

3.72

Kahnle L, 0-1

0

2

1

1

0

0

22

2.70

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Ventura

7

9

7

6

0

4

107

5.17

Wang W, 3-0

2

2

0

0

0

2

30

2.41

Inherited runners-scored: Kahnle 1-1. IBB: off Kahnle (Orlando), off Kahnle (Dyson). WP: Rodon, Ventura, Kahnle.

Umpires: Home, Will Little; First, Ted Barrett; Second, Ryan Blakney; Third, Angel Hernandez. Time: 3:22. Att: 31,598.

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