It had to happen eventually. Sooner or later, the Royals would have to return to Yankee Stadium, where their hearts were broken the previous October in the ALCS by Chris Chambliss’ walkoff home run that ended Game Five. And the American League schedule makers decided this Monday would be the day. But the Royals overcame the Yankees and the bad memories to pick up an 8-3 win.
Kansas City didn’t appear to be too concerned about the previous year’s disappointment in the first inning. With two outs, George Brett drew a walk from Yankees starter Mike Torrez. Brett took off for second on a pitch that John Mayberry punched into center field for a hit. A hustling Brett scored the game’s first run.
The Royals added two runs in the second. Pete LaCock led off with a double and scored on a Darrell Porter single. Frank White bunted Porter to second, and a two-out single from Tom Poquette gave KC a 3-0 lead.
Royals starter Paul Splittorff was perfect for the first three innings, but Willie Randolph started the fourth with a single. He took second on a groundout and scored when Chambliss singled to left with two outs.
But the Royals responded in the fifth. Poquette singled with one out and, with two outs, Brett hit his third home run of the year, putting Kansas City ahead 5-1.
The teams traded single runs in the next three half-innings. New York scored in the fifth on a Lou Piniella double and Paul Blair single. The Royals really had a chance to blow the game open in the sixth. LaCock led off with a single, and pinch-runner Dave Nelson took second on a wild pitch. Freddie Patek walked with one out, and White singled to load the bases. Relief pitcher Sparky Lyle walked pinch-hitter Amos Otis to force in a run, but retired Hal McRae and Brett on fly balls to keep the score 6-2.
Splittorff walked Willie Randolph and gave up a single to Mickey Rivers. Relief pitcher Doug Bird entered the game, but gave up a run-scoring single to Thurman Munson. Steve Mingori took over on the mound but escaped the jam by picking off Munson at first base, then getting Chambliss and Roy White on a fly ball and a popup, maintaining the Royals’ 6-3 lead.
Kansas City then added two big runs in the seventh. Lyle walked Mayberry and Al Cowens singled. With one out, Porter laced a double to right, scoring both runners for an 8-3 lead.
Mingori, who said after the game he had loosened up his teammates by asking if they went to the World Series with a win, earned his second save of the year by working around leadoff singles in the seventh and eighth, then pitching a perfect ninth to close out the win.
After the game, Brett admitted that a pregame team meeting with manager Whitey Herzog might have helped the team regain their focus.
“We had a little meeting before the game and maybe it paid off,” the third baseman said. “Whitey told us what he thought of us and it wasn’t very good. But it might have opened some peoples’ eyes. This was one of the best games we’ve played all year. We made a lot of good plays and did some timely hitting.”
The win lifted the Royals to 28-29. They remained in fifth place in the AL West, 5.5 games behind Minnesota.
Box score and play-by-play:
Today’s birthday: Darrell May (1972)