The Royals scored two runs in the ninth to tie the game, then scored in the 11th for a 5-4 walkoff win over the Cleveland Indians.
Trailing 4-2 as they came to bat in the ninth, Kansas City was facing Indians reliever Don Hood, who had worked around a walk and an error in the eighth. John Mayberry led off with a single, bunting down the third-base line to beat Cleveland’s shift. Amos Otis followed with a triple, and Cleveland relief ace Jim Kern took over for Hood. With one out, light-hitting Bob Heise put down a perfect squeeze bunt, scoring Otis while Heise was safe at first. Although Kern walked George Brett with two outs, he was able to strike out Buck Martinez to send the game to extra innings.
After failing to take advantage of a walk and a single to start the 10th, the Royals came through in the 11th. Facing Cleveland reliever Rick Waits, Heise and Joe Zdeb started the inning with singles. Brett stepped to the plate with perhaps a little more pressure than normal in this situation; manager Whitey Herzog had made so many moves that the Royals had lost the DH and relief pitcher Doug Bird, who had never had a major-league plate appearance, was in the on-deck circle. But Brett kept him there, pulling a ground ball into right field to score Heise and end the game.
The win came after the Royals had lost an early 2-1 lead. Cleveland scored the game’s first run, in the second inning. With two outs, Bruce Bochte doubled against Kansas City starter Dennis Leonard. A wild pitch moved Bochte to third, and he scored when catcher Darrell Porter tried to pick him off but made a bad throw.
Porter was able to atone for his error in the bottom of the second. Al Cowens began the inning with a single off Cleveland starter Al Fitzmorris, but was still at first with two outs. Cowens remedied that with a steal of second before Porter doubled to tie the game at 1-1. After Freddie Patek walked, Frank White singled to score Porter.
But the Royals would do little else against Fitzmorris, who retired 10 straight after White’s single. The former Royal held KC to five hits in seven innings, despite not getting a single strikeout.
Cleveland took the lead in the fifth. Singles by Jim Norris and Ray Fosse set them up. Duane Kuiper hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2. Singles by Buddy Bell and Larvell Blanks brought in another run and put the Indians ahead.
Leonard pitched through the seventh inning without further damage, but Cleveland put together a threat in the eighth. Andre Thornton led off with a double and took third on a wild pitch. After Leonard walked Rico Carty, Herzog summoned Steve Mingori from the bullpen. A short fly ball and a double play grounder later and the Royals were back in the dugout, still trailing just 3-2.
But Norris tripled off Mingori to start the ninth, and Fosse drove him in with a single. Mingori escaped without any more runs scoring, but Cleveland took a 4-2 lead to the bottom of the ninth and things looked grim for the Royals.
With the win, the Royals improved to 54-40. They also gained a game on first-place Chicago in the AL West, moving to four games back.
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