Six runs in the second inning were all the Royals needed to extend their winning streak to six games in an 8-4 win over the Mariners on Monday night at the Kingdome in Seattle.
The Mariners actually scored first, with one run in the first off Royals starter Jim Colborn. Steve Braun led off with a walk and Jose Baez singled, with Braun stopping at second. Colborn attempted a pickoff play at second, but his throw sailed into center field, allowing Braun to advance to third. Dan Meyer grounded into a forceout at second, but Braun scored to give the Mariners the lead.
Seattle starter Dick Pole worked a perfect first inning but his control completely deserted him in the second. He hit Al Cowens with a pitch to start the inning, then walked John Mayberry and Darrell Porter to load the bases. Pole rediscovered the strike zone, getting Amos Otis to ground into a run-scoring forceout at second, but Freddie Patek doubled to put the Royals in front, 2-1. Reliever Mike Kekich took over, but Frank White singled for two runs and George Brett hit his 18th home run of the year, and the Royals’ advantage had ballooned to 6-1.
The Mariners responded with two runs in the second. Juan Bernhardt homered with one out, and Braun singled with two outs. Colborn apparently forgot about the runner and pitched from the windup, allowing Braun to steal second. Baez singled, and Seattle pulled to within 6-3.
Colborn and Kekich settled in after that, though, with the Royals’ hurler retiring 10 straight hitters after the Baez single. Kekich set down 11 of 12 batters after the Brett home run, but that ended with two outs in the sixth. Otis singled and stole second, then scored on a Patek single. The throw home allowed Patek to take second. He then stole third and scored when third baseman Bill Stein couldn’t handle the throw, and Kansas City had an 8-3 lead.
The Braun/Baez combo got to Colborn again in the eighth. Braun led off with a walk and Baez singled. But Colborn got the next three batters in order, although a fly ball and a groundout brought Braun around to score. Colborn worked around a single and a balk to complete the ninth, picking up his 16th win of the year.
The victory improved the Royals’ record to 81-54. They increased their AL West lead to 5.5 games over Chicago, who split a doubleheader with Oakland. Minnesota beat Texas, so the Twins were 6.5 back and the Rangers were seven games out.
Box score and play-by-play:
1977 baseball news: Labor Day usually signals the beginning of the stretch run of the season, so let’s check in on the other divisions. As the AL West race opened up, the AL East race began to tighten. New York was swept in a doubleheader by Cleveland, while Boston took two games from Toronto, and suddenly the Red Sox were only 2.5 games behind the Yankees. Baltimore was hanging in there, at just four games back. In the NL East, Philadelphia had opened up a seven-game advantage on their in-state rivals in Pittsburgh. Chicago, which had surprised many by leading the division for most of the summer, had fallen to 10 games back. The NL West race was also all but settled, as Los Angeles had opened up a 10.5-game lead over Cincinnati. The Reds had won the last two World Series, but there was almost certainly going to be a new champion in October.