Lou Piniella’s home run in the ninth inning sent Kansas City fans home happy, as it meant a 2-1 victory over California at Municipal Stadium.
Piniella’s home run was his seventh of the season. It came with two outs in the ninth, after relief pitcher Rudy May had started the at-bat with three straight balls, then threw two called strikes.
“He came in with a breaking pitch, up high. I think he was trying to throw for a strike and it hung on him,” Piniella told the Associated Press after the game.
Piniella had driven in Kansas City’s first run, as well. In the fourth inning, Mike Fiore and Bob Oliver started the rally with singles before Piniella’s sacrifice fly brought Fiore home.
Besides Piniella, the story of this game for the Royals was starting pitcher Roger Nelson, who scattered six hits over eight innings of work. Nelson lowered his ERA to 3.04 while striking out four and walking two. He was in charge until the seventh inning, when Jay Johnstone led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Rick Reichardt. With two outs in the inning, an error by shortstop Jackie Hernandez and a passed ball charged to catcher Ellie Rodriguez gave the Angels a great chance to go ahead. But Jim Spencer hit a line drive right to Hernandez, and the inning was over.
Nelson worked around two baserunners in the eighth before Moe Drabowsky pitched a perfect ninth inning. That set the stage for Piniella’s heroics.
The win raised the Royals’ record to 31-43 on the season. They were in fifth place in the AL West, 11 games behind Oakland.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA196906300.shtml
Today’s birthdays: Bud Black (1957), Mark Grudzielanek (1970), Mitch Maier (1982)