The Royals celebrated the holiday in style, sweeping a doubleheader against the Seattle Pilots by scores of 13-2 and 3-2 at Municipal Stadium.
In the first game, the Royals scored 11 runs over their last two innings to blow open what had been a tight game. In the second game, Kansas City snuffed out a late-inning Seattle rally to pick up the victory.
Seattle began the long day with a run in the first inning off Royals starter Roger Nelson. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases; with two outs, Jerry McNertney singled to drive in one run. But Nelson got in a groove after getting out of that jam; he allowed just three hits the rest of the game, although one was a Don Mincher home run in the third. For the day, Nelson allowed four hits, three walks, and struck out seven.
Kansas City took the lead in the second, as Bob Oliver and Lou Piniella started the inning with singles off Pilots starter Fred Talbot. After a hit batter loaded the bases, Jerry Adair singled to drive in two runs.
The Royals could not add to the lead, and the score remained tied after Mincher’s homer. Talbot gave up a leadoff single to Pat Kelly in the third, then retired 13 straight.
That took the game into the seventh, when Adair broke the streak with a single. Jackie Hernandez followed with a single, and Nelson bunted the runners up a base. With two outs, the Royals strung together four hits and a walk. Joe Foy doubled to drive in two runs, then scored on a Kelly double. Mike Fiore greeted reliever John O’Donoghue with an RBI single. Oliver walked, and Piniella doubled off new pitcher Jim Bouton. The result was a six-run inning and an 8-2 lead.
The Royals removed all doubt by adding five runs in the eighth inning. All those runs came off Bouton as well. Juan Rios led off with a double. With one out, Nelson and Foy both walked. Fiore reached on an infield single as one run scored, and Oliver followed that with a grand slam. It was the first grand slam in Royals’ history, as well as the first of Oliver’s career.
Kansas City kept going with a run in the first inning of the second game. This one was brought about by small ball. Pat Kelly led off with a walk, stole second, and took third on a groundout. Paul Schaal, who had just been brought up from Omaha, hit a foul ball down the right field line. Not far; Seattle first baseman Mike Hegan made the play with his back to the infield. Kelly tagged up and scored.
The Royals added a run in the third, as Fiore walked with two outs. Schaal reached on an infield single, and Oliver singled to score Fiore.
But Seattle starter John Gelnar, who had been traded from KC to Seattle for Piniella at the end of spring training, held the Royals without further scoring through the sixth inning. Meanwhile, Royals starter Dick Drago picked up where Nelson left off, pitching seven scoreless innings. He wasn’t exactly dominant, as the Pilots collected six hits and a walk in those frames.
Kansas City added a run in the seventh, with reliever Diego Segui on the mound. With one out, Jackie Hernandez singled, took second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on Kelly’s single.
Drago got the first out of the eighth, but singles by Wayne Comer and Hegan brought reliever Don O’Riley into the game. Gus Gil singled in a run before O’Riley walked Tommy Harper to load the bases. O’Riley induced a popup to end the inning.
Seattle got a leadoff single in the ninth, but O’Riley got three ground balls to end the game and pick up his first career save.
A fun side note about the doubleheader: the umpiring crew of Ed Runge, John Stevens, James Odom, and Larry Barnett had arrived in Kansas City before their uniforms did. The crew was forced to work the doubleheader in borrowed outfits: Royals hats, light blue shirts worn by the Municipal Stadium ushers, and the pants they had worn on their way to KC.
The Royals improved to 34-45 with the sweep. They were tied for fourth in the AL West with Chicago; both teams were 10.5 games behind Minnesota and Oakland, who were tied for first.
Box score and play-by-play (game one): https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA196907041.shtml
Box score and play-by-play (game two): https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA196907042.shtml
Today’s birthday: Fred Rico (1944)