A six-run third inning lifted the Royals to a 9-6 win over the Brewers on Thursday night at County Stadium in Milwaukee. The nine runs scored were appropriate, as Kansas City captured its franchise-record ninth straight victory.
After Milwaukee scored one run in the first on a Cecil Cooper single, the Royals rallied for two runs in the second. Brewers starter Jerry Augustine walked Al Cowens to start the inning. Catcher Charlie Moore couldn’t pick up John Wathan’s bunt in front of the plate, and the Royals had two runners on. Augustine walked John Mayberry to load the bases, and Joe Zdeb singled to drive in two runs.
Then Kansas City’s offensive explosion in the third seemed to put the game out of reach. George Brett started the inning with a triple and scored on Hal McRae’s single. After Amos Otis drew a walk, Sam Hinds replaced Augustine on the mound. But Cowens singled for one run and Wathan slammed a three-run home run, the first long ball of his major-league career, to push the lead to 7-1. Mayberry followed with a walk but was forced out at second on a Zdeb grounder. With two outs, Zdeb stole second and scored on a Frank White single. Hinds walked Brett and McRae to load the bases, but reliever Eduardo Rodriguez got Otis on a fly ball to center to end the inning.
Royals starter Paul Splittorff enjoyed the run support, holding Milwaukee to six hits over seven innings before he weakened in the eighth. The Brewers chipped away at the 8-1 deficit a bit, scoring in the fourth when Jim Wynn doubled to drive in Sal Bando and again in the seventh as Wynn led off with a walk, reached second on Lenn Sakata’s single, and came home on fly balls from Moore and Jim Wohlford.
Don Money led off the eighth with a single and took second on a passed ball. After Bando doubled to score Money, Larry Gura replaced Splittorff on the mound. He got a groundout that moved Bando to third, then a grounder to second that became the second out of the inning when White threw out Bando at the plate. Gura walked Wynn but retired pinch-hitter Ken McMullen to end the inning.
The Royals added a run in the ninth. Wathan led off with a single and Mayberry walked. Joe Zdeb singled to load the bases. Freddie Patek hit a sacrifice fly for a 9-4 lead, although White and Brett both failed to bring any more runners home.
The Brewers made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Moore led off with a single and took second on a wild pitch. Wohlford singled, with Moore stopping at third. Robin Yount grounded into a force out, with Moore scoring. But after Gura walked Money and started Bando’s plate appearance with a 2-0 count, manager Whitey Herzog was forced to summon Doug Bird from the bullpen, one night after Bird had pitched 5 ⅔ innings. An understandably tired Bird threw two more balls to Bando, loading the bases. Bird recovered to strike out Cecil Cooper, but Ed Kirkpatrick delivered a pinch-hit single for one run. With the winning run now at the plate, Bird got a grounder from Wynn to end the game.
Herzog expressed frustration after the game. “Right now, we’re not physically ready,” he said. “We’re hurting and we’re trying to operate with eight pitchers. Our pitching will just have to hold on until September 1 when we can add somebody else to the roster and get some help.” Reliever Mark Littell, who led the team in saves with 12, was fighting a bad back. The Royals had used Marty Pattin, normally a reliever, to start in Littell’s place the previous night.
The win lifted the Royals to 73-51. They held a three-game lead in the AL West, as Chicago won and Texas and Minnesota lost. All three of those teams were tied for second now.
Box score and play-by-play:
Today’s birthday: Neal Musser (1980)