The Royals ran their winning streak to 16 games, sweeping a doubleheader for the second time in two days with a pair of extra-inning wins over Oakland on Thursday at Royals Stadium.
Kansas City overcame a 4-0 deficit in the first game and a 4-1 deficit in the second for the sweep. The first inning of the day started with Rodney Scott reaching on Frank White’s error. Rob Picciolo singled off Royals starter Andy Hassler. Scott then stole third and scored on a Jim Tyrone sacrifice fly. With two outs, Manny Sanguillen’s triple scored Oakland’s second run.
Hassler got two outs in the second, but walked Larry Murray and Scott. Picciolo doubled to score both runners, and Oakland had a 4-0 lead.
The Royals began chipping away at the deficit, although they were facing Oakland’s best pitcher in Vida Blue. With two outs in the third, Hal McRae doubled and George Brett singled to produce one run. In the fourth, John Wathan led off with a single and reached second when Tyrone mishandled the ball in right field. A groundout advanced Wathan to third, and he scored on Freddie Patek’s sacrifice fly.
Kansas City reliever Randy McGilberry had replaced Hassler after back-to-back walks started the fourth and retired six straight batters. But Armas led off the sixth with a double. Pinch-runner Sheldon Mallory reached third on a groundout but then was thrown out at home trying to score on Murray’s grounder. Murray reached second while the rundown was going on and scored on Scott’s single.
The Royals made it a new game with a three-run sixth, as Blue seemed to lose his command. With one out, Amos Otis walked, stole second, and advanced to third on catcher Tim Hosley’s throwing error. Wathan singled, allowing Otis to jog home and cut the Oakland lead to 5-3. Blue threw a wild pitch, moving Wathan to second, then walked John Mayberry. With two outs, Patek hit a grounder to Scott, who bobbled it, then was late on the throw to second. Everybody was safe on the fielder’s choice and error, and the bases were loaded. Blue walked Joe Zdeb to force in a run, then uncorked another wild pitch to bring in the tying run before finally getting McRae on a fly ball to end the inning.
The Royals didn’t stay down for long. In the bottom of the seventh, Al Cowens tripled with one out. Otis hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game once again, at 6-6.
Kansas City had chances to win the game in the ninth and 10th, but left two runners on in the ninth and the bases loaded in the 10th. Bird held the A’s scoreless for four innings, and in the bottom of the 11th, Willie Wilson singled and stole second. After pitcher Doug Bair intentionally walked Darrell Porter, Pete LaCock singled, easily scoring Wilson for the win.
Wilson’s speed paid off at the beginning of the second game, too. He led off the first with a double off Pablo Torrealba, then took third on a fly ball and scored on a wild pitch.
Royals starter Paul Splittorff kept Oakland scoreless for two innings, but in the third, Jeff Newman singled with one out. Scott followed with a triple to tie the score, and Picciolo’s sacrifice fly gave the A’s a 2-1 lead.
Oakland added to the lead with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. A Williams single and Sanguillen walk set up the first one, as Williams ultimately scored on an Armas grounder. Then Scott reached base with one out in the fifth when Patek couldn’t handle his ground ball. Picciolo followed with a single to left that handcuffed Zdeb, allowing Scott to score for a 4-1 lead.
The sixth inning was a big one for Kansas City in this game, too. Wilson led off with a single, and Brett singled with one out. Cowens doubled to drive in both runners, and Mayberry singled to bring the teams even again at 4-4.
The score remained tied until the 10th. Bair replaced Bob Lacey, who had held the Royals scoreless since getting a double play to end that sixth inning. Cowens greeted the new hurler with his 23rd home run of the season, sending the Royals to their 16th straight win.
The sweep, combined with a Chicago loss, meant the Royals now held a 10.5-game lead in the AL West with a 91-54 record. They now had a magic number of seven to clinch the division title with 17 games left.
Before the doubleheader, longtime Royals infielder Cookie Rojas announced that he would retire at the end of the season. A fan favorite since coming to the Royals from St. Louis in a 1970 trade, the Cuba native had been an All-Star four times for Kansas City following seven strong seasons in Philadelphia (Rojas was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals before the 1970 season but only played in 23 games for the Redbirds). Rojas would be elected to the Royals Hall of Fame in 1987.
Box score and play-by-play (first game):
Box score and play-by-play (second game):
1977 baseball news: Tom Seaver picked up the 200th win of his career, pitching Cincinnati to a 3-2 win over Los Angeles. The righthander, who had been dealt from the Mets to the Reds in a trade deadline deal that broke hearts in New York, held the Dodgers to six hits to reach the milestone. Unfortunately for the Reds, it only delayed the inevitable, as Los Angeles still held a whopping 11.5-game lead in the NL West over the team that had won the previous two World Series.
1977 baseball news: In the only close race left among the four divisions, Baltimore manager Earl Weaver decided his players’ safety was the most important thing. Incensed because umpire Marty Springstead would not make the Toronto ground crew remove a tarpaulin covering the mound in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, which was next to the left-field foul line, Weaver refused to let the Orioles take the field in the fifth inning, with Toronto ahead 4-0. The game was being played in a drizzle and Weaver was concerned about players potentially slipping on the tarp, which was also being held down by cinder blocks. “There’s only four feet of space between the foul line and the mound,” he said. “I had a guy (Andres Mora) slip out there last night and wasn’t about to let it happen again.” With the loss, the Orioles fell to 2.5 games behind the Yankees, and into a second-place tie with Boston.