The winning continued for the Royals, who picked up their 12th straight win, second straight series sweep, and completed a 7-0 road trip with a three-run ninth inning to defeat Minnesota, 4-1, on Sunday afternoon at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.
Minnesota used four pitchers in the ninth, to no avail. Starter Geoff Zahn was on the mound to begin the inning, having scattered eight hits and three walks over the first eight innings. But he walked John Wathan to start the inning. John Mayberry surprised the Twins with a bunt and reached first safely on the play. Willie Wilson entered the game as a pinch-runner for Mayberry. Freddie Patek also bunted; this one resulted in an out at first and runners at second and third. Frank White reached on a fielder’s choice, with Wathan scoring the go-ahead run. Joe Zdeb singled to score Wilson and end Zahn’s afternoon. Reliever Tom Johnson issued a walk to Hal McRae, and new pitcher Tom Burgmeier surrendered a sacrifice fly to George Brett, giving the Royals a 4-1 lead. Ron Schueler finally ended the inning by striking out Al Cowens.
Royals starter Andy Hassler worked around a leadoff single in the ninth, finishing a complete game despite allowing 10 hits and four walks. However, five of the Twins’ hits, all singles, came in the first two innings. Minnesota failed to take advantage of a pair of two-out singles in the first but scored the game’s first run in the second.
With one out in that inning, Bob Randall reached on a single and stole second. With two outs, Jerry Terrell singled to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Lyman Bostock added a single, but Hassler got Dan Ford on a fly ball to end the inning. Hassler then kept the Twins off the board the rest of the game, retiring Bostock on a grounder to end the sixth with a runner at third and Terrell on a fly ball to end the eighth with another runner on third.
Zahn also dodged quite a bit of trouble in the first few innings. Zdeb started the game with a single but was stranded at first. Nothing came of two walks in the second. McRae singled with one out in the third but was caught stealing, taking the wind out of the sails on that rally. Amos Otis started the fourth with a single and Wathan reached on an error, but a Mayberry strikeout and Patek double play kept KC scoreless.
The Royals broke through in the seventh. Zahn had retired eight in a row after that error put Wathan on base, but the young catcher started this inning with a single. Mayberry followed with a single. Patek grounded into another double play, but White rescued the inning with an RBI double to tie the game.
With the win, the Royals improved to 87-54. They now held a commanding 8.5-game lead over Chicago in the AL West. Still, manager Whitey Herzog wasn’t relaxing just yet.
“I remember last year, when we were seven games up with 11 to play and had to sweat it out the last week before shaving Oakland by 3 ½ games,” he said.
Box score and play-by-play: