This Date In Royals History–1980 Edition: July 4

Breaking out of a slump, Hal McRae delivered a pinch-hit triple in the eighth inning to lift the Royals to a 5-3 win over Seattle on a steamy Friday night at Royals Stadium.

McRae had just eight hits in his last 50 at-bats and was given a night off by manager Jim Frey. But the Royals were in danger of wasting singles by Darrell Porter and Amos Otis to start the eighth inning, as Mariners reliever Dave Roberts retired the next two hitters. McRae, batting for Jerry Terrell, lined one into center field. The Mariners outfield had shifted towards right field, and the ball eluded center fielder Juan Beniquez and rolled to the wall. Porter and Otis scored easily. Dan Quisenberry, who had taken over for starter Dennis Leonard in the seventh inning, worked around a two-out single to seal the win.

Leonard and Mariners starter Glenn Abbott both pitched well for five innings in the 98° heat. Seattle scored the game’s first run in the fourth as Beniquez and Bruce Bochte started the inning with doubles. But the Mariners only had five hits and one walk through five innings. The Royals had just one hit through five innings, and that was in the first inning.

The game then turned into a back-and-forth affair. Kansas City scored twice in the sixth to take the lead. Frank White led off with a single and scored on Willie Wilson’s triple. U L Washington singled and Wilson scored for a 2-1 lead. The Royals might have scored more, as John Wathan followed with a single to move Washington to third. But Porter’s grounder back to the mound resulted in Washington being thrown out at home, Otis grounded into a forceout, and Clint Hurdle flied out to center to end the inning.

The lead didn’t last long, as Joe Simpson led off the seventh with a double and scored on Jim Anderson’s single. A bunt moved Anderson to second, and he scored when Larry Milbourne singled with two outs, putting the Mariners ahead 3-2. Quisenberry was summoned from the bullpen to get out of the jam, which he did with a ground ball.

And that lead didn’t last long, either. Jamie Quirk led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run off Abbott, ending his evening. Roberts came in and the Royals promptly loaded the bases on two walks and a single. But Washington’s grounder resulted in a forceout at home, and then White was caught trying to steal home and the game remained tied at 3-3. That set the stage for McRae’s heroics.

With the win, the Royals improved to 46-32. They held an 8.5-game lead in the AL West; Texas passed Chicago for second place in the division. Elsewhere in the division, Seattle team president Dan O’Brien gave manager Darrell Johnson the dreaded vote of confidence with the Mariners at 34-44. Johnson would hang on to his job for another month before being fired on August 3 after the Mariners lost their ninth straight game.

George Brett watch: On the disabled list with an ankle injury. Season stats: .337/.407/.609.

Box score and play-by-play:

Today’s birthday: Fred Rico (1944)

1980 news: The high temperature in downtown Kansas City reached 103. While that was slightly better than the 109 registered on July 1, it was also the beginning of a stretch of 17 days of temperatures over the century mark.

1980 sports news: In the women’s final at Wimbledon, Australia’s Evonne Goolagong defeated Chris Evert Lloyd 6-1, 7-6 to win her first Wimbledon title since 1971. Goolagong also became the first mother to win at Wimbledon since 1914.

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