Willie Wilson’s heroics bookended the Royals’ 5-4 win over Detroit on a Wednesday night at Tiger Stadium, as Kansas City overcame an early 3-1 deficit.
But Detroit answered with three runs in their half of the first. Royals starter Larry Gura had some uncharacteristic control struggles in the first inning, hitting Alan Trammell with a pitch with one out and then walking Steve Kemp. John Wockenfuss followed that with a three-run home run to vault Detroit into the lead.
Both pitchers settled down quickly. The Royals started the second inning with a walk and a single, but Morris retired eight of the next nine batters. Gura allowed one baserunner in each of the next three innings, but also got a double play each time.
But the Royals broke through in the fifth. Frank White led off with a walk. After Wilson bunted him to second, White scored on Jamie Quirk’s single. Brett and Darrell Porter also singled, producing another run. Willie Aikens hit a sacrifice fly, putting the Royals back in front, 4-3.
Gura continued to work out of trouble, getting a fourth double play in the sixth and retiring three straight batters in the seventh after two singles started the inning. The Royals gave him an insurance run in the ninth. Brett and Porter each singled to begin the frame. Pete LaCock grounded into a double play, with Brett holding at third. John Wathan picked up the Royals with an RBI single.
That run became a big deal in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Gura walked Lance Parrish and Dan Quisenberry entered the game. Champ Summers grounded out, with Parrish taking second. Richie Hebner singled, pulling Detroit to within a run. Pinch-hitter Tim Corcoran singled, and the tying run was now at third. Lou Whitaker hit a fly ball down the left-field line, headed for the corner. If it landed in fair territory, the game would be tied and the winning run would likely score as well. Wilson raced over from his spot in left field, laid out, and snared the ball as he skidded across the left-field foul line, sealing the win.
The victory was a personal milestone for both Royals pitchers. Gura improved to 16-4, extended a personal winning streak to six games, and tied his previous career high in wins. Quisenberry picked up his 23rd save, tying the team record set by Ted Abernathy in 1971. Like Quisenberry, Abernathy was a submarine-style thrower, prompting a Quiz quip: “I’m glad it was another sidearmer. We freaks have got to stick together.”
The Royals improved to 67-40 with the win and swept the three-game series. They also finished the season series with Detroit with a 10-2 advantage. Kansas City held a 12-game lead in the AL West, the biggest lead of any division frontrunner. The Royals also found themselves just a half-game behind New York for the best record in the American League.
George Brett watch: 2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Brett also tied a team record as his hitting streak moved to 19 games, tying teammate Amos Otis in the franchise record book. Season stats: .385/.442/.669
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET198008060.shtml
1980 news: Hurricane Allen weakened slightly as it passed north of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The storm’s interaction with the mountains of Jamaica and Haiti helped knock the intensity down some, but once Allen was back over open water, it regained Category 5 strength.