A Royals Stadium-record crowd of 41,860 saw an exciting potential playoff preview, although they certainly hoped for a better result in October than New York’s 5-4 win over Kansas City on a pleasant summer Saturday evening.
With both the Royals and Yankees opening up healthy leads in their respective divisions, this series definitely looked like the postseason matchup to come in the American League. New York evened the weekend series at one game each as Ruppert Jones hit a two-run home run in the seventh to put the Yankees in front to stay.
Kansas City had taken a 3-2 lead in the fifth, but Yankees reliever Rich Gossage had shut them down since then. With two outs in the seventh, Willie Randolph reached on an infield single, just the fifth hit off Royals starter Dennis Leonard. Distracted by Randolph’s speed, Leonard threw to first several times before throwing Jones a fastball down the middle. Jones launched it over the right-field fence for a 4-3 lead.
New York added an insurance run when Reggie Jackson led off the eighth with his 28th home run of the year, off reliever Dan Quisenberry. That became the difference in the game when John Wathan homered off Gossage in the bottom of the inning. With two outs in the inning, Willie Aikens drew a walk, and pinch-runner Rusty Torres took second on a wild pitch. But Gossage struck out Clint Hurdle to end the inning, then retired the side in order in the ninth. Gossage was awarded the win after taking over for starter Tom Underwood in the fifth, then striking out five hitters in 4 ⅔ innings. Kansas City collected just two hits off Gossage, both by Wathan, who singled in the fifth.
Kansas City took the lead first, scoring in the third inning. Willie Wilson started the frame with a walk and stole second, then took third on a groundout. Hal McRae brought him home with a single. New York wasted little time taking the lead. Bob Watson homered with one out in the fourth, followed by a Jackson double and walks to Oscar Gamble and Eric Soderholm to load the bases. Leonard minimized the damage as Bobby Murcer hit a sacrifice fly and Rick Cerone grounded out to end the inning.
The Royals reclaimed the lead and chased Yankees starter Tom Underwood from the game in the fifth. Frank White led off with a single before Underwood hit Wilson with a pitch. With one out, George Brett doubled to drive in both runners, giving Kansas City a 3-2 lead. At that point, Gossage entered the game, and although Wathan singled to move Brett to third, Kansas City could not add to their lead.
With the loss, the Royals dropped to 59-38. They held an 11-game lead in the AL West.
George Brett watch: 1-4 with the double and two RBI. Season stats: .377/.440/.653
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA198007260.shtml
Today’s birthday: Ryan O’Hearn (1993)