The Royals exploded for five runs in the fourth inning, while Dennis Leonard tied a team record with 13 strikeouts as Kansas City defeated Oakland, 6-2, on Friday night at Royals Stadium.
Leonard tied Steve Busby’s mark, set in 1973. He allowed six hits and one walk. Coupled with his previous start against the A’s, on June 24, he had 24 strikeouts against them in 18 innings.
“I thought the record was 14, so I wasn’t trying to break it,” Leonard said after the game. “I was just trying to get the job done. I have no idea why I’ve been striking these guys out so much. But it could all change the next time I see them.”
Despite all that, the A’s scored first. In the third inning, Rodney Scott singled and stole second with one out. With two outs, Mitchell Page doubled to score Scott.
The Royals answered in the bottom of the inning against Oakland starter Vida Blue. Joe Zdeb picked up Kansas City’s first hit with a one-out single, then reached second on a groundout. He scored on Hal McRae’s double.
Then the Royals came alive in the fourth. Amos Otis and John Mayberry started the inning with doubles. Buck Martinez singled, with Mayberry stopping at third. Freddie Patek and Frank White drilled consecutive triples, and the Royals had a 5-1 lead. Reliever Pablo Torrealba took over for Blue and got the A’s out of the inning, but not before Zdeb hit a sacrifice fly to score White.
Leonard continued to dominate, retiring 15 of 17 hitters after the Page double. The A’s got one run in the ninth, when Manny Sanguillen tripled and Willie Crawford hit a sacrifice fly, but Leonard fittingly ended the game with a strikeout of Rich McKinney.
The mark of 13 strikeouts in a game has since been broken; the current record-holder for the Royals is Danny Duffy, who picked up 16 Ks against Tampa Bay in 2016.
With the win, the Royals improved to 44-36. For the fifth straight day, they remained in third place in the AL West and four games behind Chicago.
Box score and play-by-play:
1977 news: The third round of the British Open in Turnberry, Scotland, turned into a duel between two stars in their prime. Paired together for the round, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson shared the top spot on the leaderboard at the end of the day after both men shot a five-under 65, moving to -7 for the tournament. Both were three strokes ahead of Ben Crenshaw. As co-leaders, Nicklaus and Watson were set to be paired together again for the final round on Saturday.
Today’s birthdays: Ken Sanders (1941), Terry Puhl (1956), Ernie Young (1969)