This Date In Royals History–1977 Edition: July 22

After blowing a 2-0 lead in the ninth, the Royals recovered for a 5-4 win over Detroit on Friday night at Tiger Stadium, thanks to Al Cowens’ solo homer in the top of the 12th.

Cowens’ 16th homer of the year was one of his three hits on the night, extending his hitting streak to eight games, coincidentally matching the Royals’ winning streak. The eight straight wins set a franchise record. The game-winning blast came with two outs in the 12th, after Tigers reliever John Hiller had worked around an error and a single in the 11th, retiring five straight batters. Royals reliever Doug Bird pitched an uneventful bottom of the inning to finish off the win.

The Royals took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, thanks to starter Dennis Leonard, who continued a string of solid outings with eight shutout innings. Leonard retired the first 11 hitters he faced, worked around his only two walks to start the fifth inning, and had set down the last seven batters going into the ninth. However, Tito Fuentes led off the ninth with a triple and scored on Rusty Staub’s single. Leonard turned the game over to reliever Larry Gura, who got two outs before singles by Ben Oglivie and Milt May tied the game.

Kansas City’s lead was largely built on Hal McRae’s efforts early in the game. He led off the fourth with a double and scored on Pete LaCock’s single. Then McRae led off the sixth with a home run off Tigers starter Fernando Arroyo.

Once the game went to extras, the Royals went back to work on offense. George Brett led off the 10th with a single against Arroyo. Joe Zdeb bunted him to second, and LaCock singled to put the Royals on top. LaCock took second on the throw home and scored when John Mayberry singled with two outs.

But the Royals couldn’t hold this lead, either. Mark Littell took the mound for the 10th, but walked Chuck Scrivener and Fuentes, then allowed a single to Staub to load the bases with one out. Steve Mingori replaced Littell and got Kemp on a run-scoring fly ball for the second out. But Jason Thompson hit a broken-bat single and the game was tied again. It stayed that way until Cowens untied it.

With the win, the Royals improved to 53-38. They remained in second place in the AL West, two games behind Chicago.

Box score and play-by-play:

Today’s birthday: Mike Sweeney (1973)

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