George Brett’s home run gave the Royals the lead for good as Kansas City continued to put pressure on the division-leading White Sox with a 6-3 win on Saturday night at Royals Stadium.
The Royals trailed 3-1 when they came to bat in the seventh. Chicago starter Wilbur Wood had his knuckleball working, holding the Royals to five hits and a walk through the first six innings. Freddie Patek started the inning with an infield single, then reached second on a pickoff play when he was able to kick the ball out of shortstop Tim Nordbrook’s glove on his slide. Patek also stole third before Bob Heise drew a walk. Reliever Dave Hamilton entered the game, but Brett deposited his first pitch over the center-field wall for his 12th home run of the year, a new career high.
Kansas City added two insurance runs in the eighth. Facing Jack Kucek, who had replaced Hamilton in the seventh and retired the side, John Mayberry led off with a single. Pinch-runner John Wathan reached second when first baseman Jim Spencer made a bad throw to second on Joe Zdeb’s grounder. Darrell Porter ripped an RBI single. Patek bunted the runners to second and third, and Heise put down a squeeze bunt to score Zdeb for a 6-3 lead.
Those extra runs looked like a big deal in the top of the ninth. Royals starter Jim Colborn was tagged for three runs in the first inning, but had held the White Sox to four singles and a walk since then. However, Oscar Gamble and Spencer singled to start the inning. Reliever Doug Bird got Chet Lemon to ground into a double play, then retired Jack Brohamer to end the game and notch his second save of the year.
Gamble had the big hit in Chicago’s first inning. Ralph Garr started the game with a single and Jorge Orta walked. Gamble drove in both runs with a double and reached third when Al Cowens mishandled the ball in right field. Spencer’s groundout brought Gamble home.
The Royals got one run back in the bottom of the first. Brett led off with a triple. Hal McRae’s grounder was booted by Nordbrook, allowing Brett to score. But both pitchers settled in, although the Royals did load the bases with one out in the fifth. Wood got Brett and McRae out to end that threat.
With the win, the Royals improved to 60-45. They also moved within 2.5 games of first, although they stayed in third place in the AL West. Minnesota also won, so the Twins sat 1.5 games out of first.
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