For the fourth straight time, the Royals couldn’t capture their 100th win, as the Athletics won in 10 innings, 6-5, on Wednesday night at Oakland Coliseum. The win gave the A’s, fighting to stay out of the AL West cellar, a sweep of the four-game series.
It also kept Oakland starter Vida Blue from losing his 20th game of the year. Blue managed to pitch nine innings despite allowing 12 hits, although he didn’t walk any batters. He ended the year with a 14-19 record, and the 1971 Cy Young winner, essentially the only key piece left of the A’s early-1970s dynasty, expressed his desire to pitch elsewhere in 1978 after the game (he would be traded across the bay to San Francisco in the offseason).
The Royals seemed intent on picking up that 100th win in the first inning. Joe Zdeb, Hal McRae, and George Brett started the inning with singles to produce one run. Al Cowens grounded out, with McRae scoring. John Wathan doubled to drive in Brett, and with two outs, Darrell Porter singled to score Wathan for a 4-0 lead.
Oakland got one run back in the bottom of the first. Royals starter Mark Littell walked Rodney Scott to start the inning. Scott stole second and took third on a wild pitch, and scored when Mike Jorgensen doubled with two outs.
Littell pitched well after that, allowing just two singles and retiring 13 in a row at one point. But Manny Sanguillen singled with one out in the seventh, and Tony Armas doubled with two outs to cut the Royals’ lead to 4-2.
The Royals pushed the lead back to three runs in the eighth. With one out, Clint Hurdle and Wathan both singled. Cookie Rojas bounced into a forceout at second, but Hurdle scored on the play.
However, Kansas City could not hold the lead. Scott led off the eighth with a single and stole second. Rob Picciolo singled and Mitchell Page walked, loading the bases. Littell looked like he might escape, getting Jorgensen to hit a sacrifice fly and striking out Jim Tyrone. But Sanguillen singled, driving in two runs and tying the game at 5-5. Gary Lance took over and retired Marty Perez to end the inning.
The Royals almost scored in the top of the 10th. Bob Lacey replaced Blue and got the first two outs, but walked John Mayberry. Rojas doubled to left, but Page and Scott teamed up to throw out Mayberry at the plate.
Then Oakland won the game in the bottom of the 10th against Lance. Jorgensen led off with a single, and Tyrone bunted pinch-runner Larry Murray to second. With two outs, Perez singled to center, bringing in Murray for the win.
Despite the sweep, Royals manager Whitey Herzog wasn’t concerned. “Losing four here doesn’t mean a thing,” he said. “We could have won a couple of the games, but they don’t mean a thing. We were using a lot of kids.”
With the loss, the Royals fell to 99-59. They held an eight-game lead in the AL West as they headed back to Kansas City for the final four games of the year, against California.
Box score and play-by-play:
Today’s birthdays: Grant Jackson (1942), Pete Filson (1958), Chris Demaria (1980)