The Royals’ ninth-inning rally came up just short as California escaped with a 4-3 win at Municipal Stadium.
California starter Andy Messersmith was still on the mound as the final inning began, with the Angels nursing a 4-2 lead. But Bob Oliver led off with a walk, and reliever Ken Tatum entered the game. He retired the first man he face, but Lou Piniella singled. With two outs, Tatum battled wildness. He hit Ed Kirkpatrick to load the bases, then walked Chuck Harrison to force in a run. But Tatum recovered to strike out Joe Foy and end the game.
Kansas City got its first hit when Pat Kelly led off the fourth with a single. Two outs later, Buck Martinez singled, with Kelly taking third. A wild pitch scored Kelly, and Lou Piniella singled to drive in Martinez.
The Angels added a controversial run in the seventh. Jim Spencer and Joe Azcue started the inning with singles, and Spencer took third on the latter’s hit. Messersmith was batting when a pitch got away from Bunker and sailed to the backstop. But almost everyone in the ballpark thought they had heard the ball hit something, most likely Messersmith’s batting helmet. However, home plate umpire Larry Napp did not hear it, and therefore did not rule it a dead ball. Spencer scored on the play, but if it had been a hit batter, he would not have been able to advance. Messersmith wound up sacrificing Azcue to third, but Bunker got the last two outs to end the inning.
“All I know is the ball hit something—either his bat or him. Either way, the ball is dead and the run doesn’t score,” Royals manager Joe Gordon told the Associated Press.
Since Spencer’s run was the difference in the game, it was a pretty important call. But the Royals had a chance to tie it or win it in the ninth and could not capitalize.
The loss dropped the Royals to 32-45 on the season. They were in fifth place in the AL West, 12 games behind Oakland.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA196907030.shtml