An unlikely hero lifted the Royals to a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday night at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.
Tom Poquette hit just his second home run of the season in the top of the eighth to give the Royals the lead for good. Blue Jays starter Jim Clancy had allowed just six hits, although he had issued five walks as well, through seven innings. But John Mayberry began the inning with a double ahead of Poquette’s home run.
That capped a back and forth game in which the Royals overcame a 2-0 deficit to take the lead. Toronto collected three hits and a walk off Kansas City starter Paul Splittorff in the first. John Scott started the inning with a single but was forced out at second on a Steve Staggs grounder. Bob Bailor singled, and with two outs, Doug Ault walked to load the bases. Otto Velez singled to drive in two runs before Splittorff struck out Roy Howell to end the inning.
George Brett led off the third with an inside-the-park home run. Brett’s line drive bounced off the fence in right-center on one hop, and eluded center fielder Bailor long enough for Brett to speed around the bases. It was his 14th home run of the season.
Frank White started the fifth with a single and Brett followed with a walk. White moved up to third on a fly ball and scored on Pete LaCock’s fly ball to tie the game at 2-2.
Mayberry began the sixth with a walk but was erased when Poquette grounded into a double play. That became a big play when Darrell Porter hit his 11th home run of the year to put the Royals in front, 3-2.
But the lead didn’t last long. Ault led off the sixth with a single. With one out, Howell doubled, with Ault stopping at third. Splittorff got out of this jam cheaply enough, as Alan Ashby hit a grounder to shortstop Freddie Patek, who threw to third to cut down Howell while Ault scored the tying run.
Splittorff started the eighth, but after Doug Rader led off with a single, the Royals turned to reliever Doug Bird. He got Ault to ground into a double play, then retired four more hitters in a row for his fourth save of the year and second in two nights.
The win lifted the Royals to 64-48. With Chicago beating Texas, Kansas City jumped into third place in the AL West, a half-game ahead of the Rangers and just 1.5 games behind the White Sox. Minnesota lost, allowing the White Sox to move ahead of them for the division lead by a half-game.
Box score and play-by-play:
1977 baseball news: One streak continued and one came to an end. In Philadelphia, the Phillies beat the Cubs for their 10th straight victory. The streak had lifted Philly to first place in the NL East at 69-44. In fact, the Phillies now had the best record in all of baseball. They had opened up a three-game lead on Pittsburgh and 4.5 games over the Cubs, who had led the division for much of the season. Meanwhile, the A’s won in Baltimore to end a club-record 14-game losing streak. Oakland could now concentrate on digging out of the AL West basement, as they were three games behind the expansion Seattle Mariners.
Today’s birthdays: Tom Prince (1964), Roman Colon (1979), Jonah Bayliss (1980)