This Date In Royals History–1977 Edition: August 20

A three-run third inning proved to be the difference as the Royals moved into first place in the AL West with a 5-2 win over the Red Sox on Saturday night at Royals Stadium.

Kansas City already held a 1-0 lead when they came to bat in the third against Boston starter Luis Tiant. Tom Poquette led off with a double. With one out, George Brett singled. Poquette beat the throw home, with Brett moving up to second on the play. Al Cowens, who had driven in Hal McRae with a single in the first for Kansas City’s first run, tripled and John Mayberry singled, and the Royals held a 4-0 lead. Bob Stanley took over for Tiant and retired the next two hitters, but the damage was done.

Royals starter Mark Littell, making just his second start of the year after pitching in relief for the first 4.5 months, held Boston hitless for five innings before he was forced to leave the game with back soreness. Littell did walk three batters but had piled up six strikeouts in his five innings and had retired 10 straight when he left the game.

Boston finally got a hit with two outs in the sixth, when Jim Rice singled off reliever Steve Mingori. Carl Yastrzemski followed with a single, but Mingori got Carlton Fisk on a fly ball to end the threat.

Mingori was not as fortunate in the seventh, though. George Scott led off with a single. Brett botched Butch Hobson’s ground ball, and the Red Sox had two on and no outs. Pinch-hitter Dwight Evans doubled, scoring Scott with Hobson stopping at third. Doug Bird took over for Mingori and retired the next two batters, although Hobson scored on Rick Burleson’s grounder. Bird walked Fred Lynn but a ground ball from Rice ended the inning with the Royals still ahead, 4-2.

The Royals tacked on an insurance run in the eighth. Stanley, who had also recorded 10 straight outs at one point, was still on the mound and walked Mayberry to start the inning. Darrell Porter singled, and Boston called on Bill Campbell to pitch. Amos Otis singled, scoring Mayberry, although Porter was thrown out at third on the play. Otis moved up to second on the throw but was stranded there.

However, Bird worked around Burleson’s two-out double in the ninth to seal the win. It was his sixth save of the season.

The Royals improved to 68-51 with the win. With Chicago, Minnesota, and Texas all losing, Kansas City vaulted from third place into first place by a half-game over the Rangers and White Sox and a full game over the Twins. It was the first time the Royals had been in first place since May 2 and the first time all season they had the top spot to themselves.

Box score and play-by-play:

Today’s birthday: Israel Sanchez (1963)

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