Despite blowing a 6-1 lead, the Royals captured an 8-7 walkoff win to complete a three-game sweep of the division-leading Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon at Royals Stadium.
Kansas City wasted little time jumping on Twins starter Dave Goltz. Tom Poquette began the bottom of the first by reaching first when he struck out on a wild pitch. Singles from Hal McRae and George Brett brought Poquette around to score. With one out, Pete LaCock hit a grounder to first baseman Rod Carew, who threw home to get McRae for the second out. McRae’s slide took out catcher Glenn Borgmann, who complained after the game that McRae came in too high.
“The way he had the plate blocked, I only had two alternatives,” countered McRae. “Either run over him or slide through him. Those were the only two plays I had. He was blocking the plate completely. Most catchers will let you see at least part of the plate and try to brush tag you. I hope he’s not seriously hurt. But I don’t go out there to make friends. That’s why they call it hardball.”
Borgmann would finish the inning but left the game afterwards, and later was diagnosed with torn knee ligaments. He would not return to the Twins until late September.
Brett followed that play with a steal of home, the second one in as many games for the Royals after Freddie Patek pulled it off the night before.
In the second inning, Amos Otis led off with a single, took second on a bunt, and scored on Frank White’s single. That gave the Royals a 3-0 lead.
Minnesota got one run back in the fifth against Royals starter Andy Hassler, who had only allowed three hits to that point. With one out, Jerry Terrell drew a walk and stole second. Lyman Bostock’s single cut the KC lead to 3-1.
The Royals answered in their half of the fifth. With one out, McRae walked and Brett singled, moving McRae to third. John Mayberry hit a sacrifice fly to bring him in. Then in the sixth, LaCock led off with a double. Goltz attempted a pickoff but threw the ball into center field, allowing LaCock to move to third. Then a balk scored him. With two outs, Patek singled and stole second. Goltz walked White. Poquette doubled, scoring Patek, although White was thrown out at the plate to end the inning with the Royals ahead, 6-1.
Hassler got the first out of the seventh, but Bob Randall singled and Roy Smalley walked. Reliever Steve Mingori, who had been on a roll lately with 24 ⅓ scoreless innings, entered the game. But Terrell greeted him with an RBI single. Then Mingori walked Bostock, Ford, and Carew, forcing in two runs in the process. Reliever Mark Littell took over and got the last two outs, although Larry Hisle did bring in a run with a sacrifice fly. All that made it a 6-5 game.
Goltz gave way to reliever Tom Burgmeier for the seventh, and the Royals got singles from three of the first four batters. Unfortunately, Brett, the second man up in the inning, grounded into a double play. With Mayberry at second and LaCock on first, Tom Johnson entered the game for Minnesota. Two wild pitches allowed Mayberry to move to third and LaCock to take second, and Al Cowens delivered a pinch-hit single to score Mayberry.
Littell worked a perfect eighth and went back out for the ninth with the Royals still ahead, 7-5. But with one out, Bostock and pinch-hitter Glenn Adams each hit singles. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base. Carew singled to score Bostock, and Hisle hit another sacrifice fly to tie the game at 7-7. Larry Gura got the final out of the inning.
It didn’t take the Royals long to earn the victory, though. Brett led off with a single and Mayberry smacked a double off the right-field fence, allowing Brett to race home with the winning run.
With the win, the Royals reached the .500 mark again at 31-31. That was the first time they had been at .500 since they were 18-18 on May 20. Seven times in that stretch, they had taken the field with a chance to climb back to .500 but had lost each time.
Kansas City found themselves just four games out of first place in the AL West after their sweep of the Twins. Minnesota and Chicago were now tied for first in the division.
Box score and play-by-play:
1977 baseball news: The Cleveland Indians, despite winning their previous two games, replaced manager Frank Robinson with one of his coaches, Jeff Torborg. Cleveland entered the day at 26-31 and in fifth place in the AL East. Robinson was fired shortly before the Indians swept Detroit in a doubleheader. The future Hall of Famer called Torborg after the second game to congratulate him.
Today’s birthdays: Fernando Gonzalez (1950), Butch Davis (1958), Yasuhiko Yabuta (1973), Doug Mientkiewicz (1974), Bruce Chen (1977)