On Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field, that clutch hit came from Kansas City. Jeff Francoeur's RBI single with two out in the fourth inning plated what would be the game's only run, as the Royals bounced back from a tough loss Tuesday night to beat the Atlanta Braves, 1-0.
The win ended Atlanta's Major League-high 10-game winning streak and gave the Royals a split of the two-game series.
"It was a clutch hit by Francoeur," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "For him to come home and get the game-winning hit, he had a big night last night. I'm very, very happy for him."
"It was big," said Francoeur, who finished 3-for-8 in the series. "As a team we're not quite swinging the bats as good as we'd like right now, but at the same time, when you have pitching like we do this year, sometimes you just have to get one run to win a game. Today we did that."
Wade Davis and the bullpen made that run hold up.
Davis remained unbeaten in three starts in a Royals uniform, going a season-high seven innings and throwing 92 pitches, 62 for strikes. He allowed five hits and struck out seven without walking a batter. He was much more on target than his previous outing, when he threw 96 pitches in five innings. Davis also extended his scoreless streak to 13 innings.
His ability to keep the target moving and down was a key to shutting down the Major League's top homer-hitting team.
"Today we started going with the cutter a lot," said Davis. "It was the only pitch we could get down. If I didn't have that, I would have left a lot of balls up and over the plate. So I was thankful we had that pitch to go to. I fell behind a lot the last game. I came out with my big goal to get ahead. I know they have a pretty good offense, so I had to mix it up a lot and minimize my mistakes and keep them off the plate."
"Wade was good today. He was tough," said Braves second baseman Dan Uggla. "He got us to roll over some balls. He made some good pitches, and we weren't able to get anything going. We got some hits with two outs. But we never really got it going today."
Nothing deterred Davis, not even taking a line drive in the back from former Rays teammate B.J. Upton with one out in the sixth. Davis picked up that ball and easily threw out the Braves' speedy center fielder.
Reliever Kelvin Herrera redeemed himself from a shaky outing Tuesday, by retiring the side in the eighth, and Greg Holland, who came in with a 12.00 ERA, did the same in the ninth, striking out the side to earn his third save.
Yost was pleased with the resilience of the back end of the bullpen.
"Every once in a while, you fall off the horse and you come back the next day and get back on," said Kansas City's skipper. "Holland never got settled in his role. He's starting to settle in now. These things happen. It's the ebb and flow of the season."
Mike Minor took the loss for Atlanta, allowing only five hits and one earned run over six innings, striking out five and not walking a batter.
The Royals outhit the Braves, 8-6, with five of the hits coming from center fielder Lorenzo Cain (3-for-4) and shortstop Alcides Escobar (2-for-4). Left fielder Alex Gordon went 0-for-4, to end his Major League-leading 12-game hitting streak.
Kansas City bunched three of its hits together in the fourth in scoring the game's only run. Escobar, who snapped an 0-for-15 streak with a single to right in his previous at-bat, again singled to right. Then, with two outs, Cain moved Escobar into scoring position with an infield dribbler and Francoeur ripped an RBI single to left.
Baserunners were at a premium on Wednesday afternoon, as Davis didn't allow a runner to second base until a two-out double by Jason Heyward in the sixth and only allowed one runner to get as far as third. Minor allowed only Escobar and Cain to get as far as second. Each team left five men on base.
The Braves' best chance to score all day came in the seventh. Juan Francisco lined a two-out single just out of the reach of second baseman Chris Getz. First baseman Chris Johnson followed with a blooper that dropped behind first, also just out of the diving Getz's reach. The ball spun away from Getz, but he hustled after the ball, chased it down and threw Francisco out at the plate.
"With the situation, you're never really shocked," said Getz,of seeing Francisco try to score. "Especially, I was in such an awkward area, but I felt like I had plenty of time to put it in the vicinity. I did that and got the out."
Francoeur believes the win illustrated the ideal blueprint for the Royals -- just throw in a little more offense.
"You've got to be able to win 1-0, 2-1 games," Francoeur said. "This is how you draw it up. Wade goes seven, Kelvin in the eighth and Greg -- Greg looked great today. He looked like the Greg we saw last year.
"This is a huge confidence-booster," Francoeur said, making no bones about it being a satisfying end to his homecoming. "I'm out in the field and I get the feeling sometimes, 'Maybe all we need is one run today.' We'd like to score more. We had a few opportunities, but at the same time, you give the credit to their pitching staff. They're the best in the Majors right now. It's impressive what we did today."