The Royals pushed their winning streak to seven games before seeing it end in the nightcap of a doubleheader split with the Indians, 5-0 and 8-5, on a Wednesday evening at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.
The doubleheader was necessitated by a rainout two days earlier. The delay didn’t seem to slow down the Royals, who won on Tuesday night and rode Dennis Leonard’s two-hitter to victory in the first game. Leonard didn’t have any no-hit drama as Miguel Dilone singled to lead off the first, but after Toby Harrah’s double in the second, Cleveland managed just three walks. The Indians never had a runner reach third as Leonard picked up his sixth win and dropped his ERA to 4.78.
Kansas City gave Leonard all the runs he needed in the first inning. Facing Cleveland starter Rick Waits, U L Washington singled with one out. Hal McRae drew a walk and Amos Otis followed with an RBI single. With two outs, Willie Aikens and John Wathan each picked up RBI singles for a 3-0 lead.
The Royals took advantage of Waits’ wildness in the third for another run. McRae, Otis, and Aikens all drew walks to load the bases. Wathan’s sacrifice fly brought in McRae. Kansas City added an easier run in the fourth as Frank White led off with a home run, his third of the year.
From there, Leonard retired 20 of the last 22 batters to finish off the win.
In the second game, Kansas City could not maintain Leonard’s performance. Starter Paul Splittorff allowed four runs in just 2 ⅔ innings, followed by Rich Gale giving up two in 2 ⅔ and Dan Quisenberry giving up two in 1 ⅔. Those last four runs meant the Royals gave up a 5-4 lead over the last three innings.
Kansas City actually had a 3-0 lead going to the bottom of the second. The Royals scored one run in the first off Indians starter Dan Spillner. Willie Wilson led off with a single, stole second, and took third on a passed ball. He scored on an Otis sacrifice fly. In the second, Clint Hurdle and Jamie Quirk hit back-to-back doubles with one out, although Hurdle stopped at third. Wilson delivered a single that scored both runners.
Mike Hargrove homered with two outs in the third to give Cleveland the lead. After two singles, Gale took over for Splittorff and retired Charboneau to end the inning.
That allowed the Royals to tie the game and ultimately retake the lead. In the fourth, Hurdle singled and took third when Jerry Dybzinski made both a fielding and a throwing error on Quirk’s grounder. Rance Mullinks followed with a sacrifice fly to tie it at 4-4. Hurdle then hit a home run with two outs in the sixth for a 5-4 lead.
But the Royals’ bullpen could not hold this one. In the seventh, Dave Rosello led off with a single and scored when Jorge Orta homered off Gale with one out, giving Cleveland a 6-5 advantage. Quisenberry rescued the Royals in that inning, getting the last out with two men on, but he allowed two more runs in the eighth as Orta singled with two men on. That gave Spillner the cushion he needed to finish his complete-game win. The Royals got two men on in the ninth but Spillner struck out McRae to end the game.
The split left the Royals with a 35-21 record. They did lose a half-game in the standings but still held a 5.5-game lead over Chicago in the AL West.
George Brett watch: After injuring his ankle on a slide the previous night, Brett returned to Kansas City for further evaluation. The original estimate was that he would miss at least three games, but general manager Joe Burke told the Associated Press he would be happy if Brett were back in 10 days. Season stats: .337/.407/.609
Box score and play-by-play (game one): https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE198006111.shtml
Box score and play-by-play (game two): https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE198006112.shtml