For the second straight night, the Royals beat Cleveland by a 5-4 score in extra innings, winning in walkoff fashion in 11 innings on Thursday night at Royals Stadium.
But this wasn’t quite a carbon copy of the night before. While the Royals had to score two runs in the ninth just to tie it on Wednesday, on this night they coughed up a 4-1 lead late before pushing across the game-winning run.
There were a couple of similarities: first, a little-used player not known for his hitting figured in the winning run. The night before, utility infielder Bob Heise tripled and scored the final tally. On this night, it was outfielder Joe Lahoud, recently called up from Omaha, pinch-hitting and collecting his first big-league hit of the year to end the game. Lahoud’s single came off Cleveland starter Dennis Eckersley, who was still in the game in the 11th. With two outs in the inning, Tom Poquette tripled. After an intentional walk to Freddie Patek, Lahoud dumped a single into center field and the Royals had their eighth straight home win, a team record.
Another similarity in the two games was that relief pitcher Doug Bird picked up the win with some solid relief work. After pitching two scoreless innings on Wednesday, Bird worked 2 ⅔ innings on this night, entering the game in the ninth with a runner on second and getting a popup and a strikeout to hold the Indians scoreless. Bird would pick up five strikeouts on this night. The win was his 12th straight in relief and he lowered his ERA to 0.80 over his previous 20 innings.
After two perfect innings from Eckersley, the Royals jumped on top in the third. Poquette led off with a single and reached third when Eckersley threw away a pickoff attempt. With two outs, George Brett homered for the sixth time on the season, followed by Hal McRae’s 12th of the year, giving the Royals a 3-0 lead.
The Royals expanded their lead back to three in the fifth inning. Frank White led off with a double and Brett doubled with one out for a 4-1 lead.
Cleveland began clawing back in the seventh. After a few rough innings at the start when he was able to escape trouble, Colborn retired nine straight following Kendall’s RBI double. But Duane Kuiper singled with two outs in the seventh, then scored on a Buddy Bell double.
And the Indians tied the game in the eighth, with the Royals narrowly escaping facing a one-run deficit. Andre Thornton led off with a single, and Bruce Bochte walked with one out. Reliever Larry Gura took over for Colborn, but Pruitt tripled with two outs, driving in both runners to tie the game. Pruitt attempted to stretch his triple into an inside-the-park home run, but Poquette, Patek, and Darrell Porter teamed up on the relay throw to get him out at the plate on a close play.
The Royals wasted a good scoring chance in the bottom of the eighth. Pete LaCock led off with a walk and Al Cowens singled. LaCock moved up on a fly ball, but he was then thrown out at home on Porter’s grounder to shortstop, and the game remained knotted up until the 11th.
With the win, the Royals improved to 55-40. They were in second place in the AL West, 3.5 games behind Chicago. Kansas City was headed to the Windy City for four games against the White Sox, having won 10 of their last 12 games.
Box score and play-by-play: