Al Cowens singled in the eighth inning to drive in the game-winning run, as the Royals defeated the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, on Wednesday night at Royals Stadium.
After Seattle scored twice in the fifth to tie the game, it remained 3-3 until that eighth inning. Facing Mariners starter Dick Pole, who had scattered seven hits over the first seven innings, George Brett singled to start the inning. Brett stole second, and with one out, Cowens singled to left for a 4-3 lead.
Kansas City built a 3-0 lead with single runs in the first three innings. With two outs in the first, Brett singled and reached second on center fielder Ruppert Jones’ error. After John Mayberry walked, Cowens singled to score Brett.
In the second inning, Freddie Patek singled to left. That was his 1,000th career hit and earned him a standing ovation from the crowd of 22,140 fans. Patek then stole second and scored on Tom Poquette’s double.
In the third inning, Hak McRae started things with a double. He scored when Mayberry singled with one out.
Royals starter Paul Splittorff was perfect for the first three innings, which included four straight strikeouts, an oddity for the lefthander who did not normally pile up the punchouts (he had 99 in 229 innings for the 1977 season). But Jose Baez led off the fourth with a single. He reached third with one out when Juan Bernhardt singled, although Bernhardt was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Leroy Stanton singled to put the Mariners on the board.
Splittorff retired the first two batters in the fifth, but singles by Skip Jutze and Craig Reynolds kept the inning alive. Baez singled to right, and Cowens mishandled the ball. Jutze scored easily, and Reynolds was able to score an unearned run on the error. Baez raced past second but was thrown out at third to end the inning.
Of course, Cowens would atone for his error later on, giving the Royals the win, with some help from the bullpen. Doug Bird tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Splittorff and was rewarded with the win after the Royals scored the go-ahead run. Bird did allow a leadoff single to Stanton to start the ninth, and pinch-runner Dave Collins stole second. But Larry Gura retired Jones on a popup, and Mark Littell earned his eighth save with two strikeouts to end the game.
The win lifted the Royals to 33-32, the first time they had been above .500 since they were 17-16 on May 15. They were in a third-place tie with Texas in the AL West, with both teams four games behind first-place Chicago.
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