Seven strong innings from Paul Splittorff and an unlikely home run from Pete LaCock moved the Royals to the verge of a division title as they earned a 4-3 victory over Oakland on a Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum.
Splittorff improved to 12-10 on the season as he held Oakland to seven hits. The veteran lefthander didn’t walk anyone, although he only picked up one strikeout.
Oakland did score single runs in the first two innings. Rickey Henderson led off the first with a single, and took second when Mike Heath grounded out for the second out of the inning. Tony Armas brought Henderson home with a single. In the second, Mickey Klutts singled with one out and scored when Dave McKay doubled to right field and Clint Hurdle mishandled the ball. Splittorff recovered to retire the next 10 batters. That streak was broken by Henderson’s single with two outs in the fifth, but catcher Darrell Porter threw out Henderson going for a steal of second. Oakland would not have another baserunner until the seventh, when the A’s collected a pair of singles with two outs. Splittorff ended that threat with a harmless fly ball.
The Royals tied the score in the third inning. LaCock led off the inning with a single, Kansas City’s first hit off A’s starter Brian Kingman. U L Washington followed with a single. Although Willie Wilson bounced into a forceout at third, a passed ball soon gave the Royals runners at second and third. Washington and Wilson scored when Willie Aikens singled with two outs, knotting things up at 2-2.
Kansas City took the lead in the fourth as Hurdle doubled with one out. With two outs, Washington’s grounder was booted by second baseman McKay, allowing Hurdle to scamper home with the lead run.
LaCock hit his first home run of the season with two outs in the sixth, increasing the Royals’ lead to 4-2. That became the difference in the game when Oakland rallied in the eighth. Dan Quisenberry took over for Splittorff, but Henderson started the inning with a single and took second on a groundout. Pinch-hitter Wayne Gross singled to score Henderson. Armas followed with a single, but Quisenberry retired the next two hitters to end the inning with the Royals still in front. He then worked around a two-out single in the ninth, striking out Henderson to end the game for his 33rd save of the year.
The win moved the Royals to 89-55 on the season and cut their magic number to win the division to two. Any Royals win or Oakland loss in the last 18 games would give the Royals a share of the AL West title. The win also meant Kansas City salvaged the final game of the three-game series and ended their 10-game road trip with a 4-6 mark.
George Brett watch: Brett missed his eighth straight game with an injured hand. Season stats: .396/.463/.668
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK198009140.shtml
1980 sports news: The Chiefs dropped their second straight home game to a division rival to begin the season, this one a 17-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium. Rookie kicker Nick Lowery established a franchise record 57-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, but head coach Marv Levy would later eschew a 63-yard attempt with 4:56 left in the game. The Chiefs punted and never got the ball back.
Today’s birthday: Jerry Don Gleaton (1957)