When your leadoff hitter gets on base five times and is backed up by 13 other hits and four walks, that’s a recipe for success. And that held true in the Royals’ 13-3 romp over the Red Sox on a scorching Thursday night at Royals Stadium.
Willie Wilson did exactly what you want your leadoff man to do, collecting four hits and a walk in his five plate appearances. With the Royals collecting 17 hits and five walks as a team, Wilson scored four times. Fittingly, he started the game with an infield single, then stole second and raced all the way home when catcher Dave Rader’s throw was wild.
Red Sox starter Dennis Eckersley retired eight straight batters after Wilson’s hit, but the speedy center fielder started another rally with two outs in the third. He singled and scored on Hal McRae’s double.
Although the Royals ultimately left the bases loaded that inning, they added two more runs in the fourth. John Wathan started the inning with a double, took third on a groundout, and scored on Frank White’s bunt single. Then White stole second, reached third on a grounder, and scored when Wilson singled again.
Kansas City added a run in the fifth as George Brett and Darrell Porter started the inning with singles, although Brett was cut down when he tried to score on Porter’s hit into left-center field. Porter took second on the play, advanced to third on a grounder, and scored when Wathan singled.
The Royals put the game out of reach with five runs in their half of the sixth. Win Remmerswaal had taken over for Eckersley to finish the fifth, but U L Washington and Wilson started the sixth with singles. McRae hit a line drive to right-center, where Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans converged and crashed into each other trying to catch the ball. Washington and Wilson raced home, and McRae circled the bases to increase the Royals’ lead to 8-0. The play was originally scored a four-base error, but official scorer Alan Hoskins changed it to an inside-the-park home run after the game. (More on that shortly.)
The inning continued with Brett walking and a Porter single. A wild pitch scored Brett, and Willie Aikens doubled to score Porter. Now the Royals had a 10-0 lead.
Kansas City finished its scoring with three unearned runs in the seventh, all against Red Sox reliever Bill Campbell. Wilson drew a walk with one out and McRae reached on an error by shortstop Glenn Hoffman. Brett singled to drive in a run, followed by a Porter sacrifice fly and Aikens single that drove the Royals’ lead to 13-0.
The beneficiary of all this offense was Royals starter Dennis Leonard. He held the Red Sox to six hits over eight innings, while striking out two and walking two. The only run Leonard allowed came in the eighth, as Dave Stapleton tripled with one out and scored on Lynn’s groundout. Boston added two meaningless runs in the ninth off reliever Jeff Twitty.
After the game, several Royals expressed displeasure with Hoskins’ recent scoring decisions. Earlier in the homestand, two hard-hit balls by McRae had been ruled errors, and then the ball he hit for the inside-the-park home run was originally ruled an error. Royals manager Jim Frey confronted Hoskins in front of McRae’s locker after the game, while Wilson and some other players loudly made their displeasure known. McRae seemed to be the calmest of the players, although he told the Associated Press, “Somebody’s got to beg for me to get a base hit, and I’m sick of it. It seems like I never get a break in this park…I don’t want anybody to give me anything I don’t deserve. But this is taking all the fun out of the game.”
With the win, the Royals improved to 62-39. They held a 12-game lead over Oakland in the AL West. They won the three-game series with the Red Sox, 2-1, and also finished July with an 18-9 record.
George Brett watch: 2-3, two walks, two runs, and an RBI. Sportswriters started bringing up the possibility of him hitting .400. Season stats: .390/.453/.677.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA198007310.shtml
1980 news: The Department of Labor issued its July numbers, with mixed results for the troubled U.S. economy. On one hand, the American economy had added 459,000 jobs in July, but the unemployment rate returned to 7.8%. The rate had dropped from 7.8% in May to 7.7% in June.
Today’s birthday: Scott Bankhead (1963)