Royals stay hot by topping nemesis Verlander
Moustakas belts decisive homer as KC wins second straight in set
KANSAS CITY -- It was Justin Verlander, the classic conqueror of Kansas City, on the mound. Tough hill to climb for the Royals.
So what happens on Saturday night?
Mike Moustakas nails Verlander for a game-deciding home run and the Royals beat him, 6-5. Baseball's premier hitter, Miguel Cabrera, is neutralized with the game on the line. Ned Yost secures his 700th managerial victory. And the Royals beat the first-place Detroit Tigers for the second straight night.
Most of the 30,116 fans left Kauffman Stadium in a happy frame of mind, perhaps sensing a turnaround for a hometown team that had gone into the All-Star break with five straight losses.
"This is a good team we've got here, man, we're resilient and we never say die," Moustakas said.
They had died many times over the years against Verlander's previous 25 starts against them.
"We're fully aware that we were 2-15 [now 3-15] against Verlander, so our focus today was to go out and give him a tough game and that's exactly what we did," Yost said.
The Royals, beating Verlander for the first time since Sept. 9, 2009, roughed him up for six runs (five earned) on eight hits in his 5 2/3 innings.
"Just overall, just wasn't in sync. Just gotta find it. Couldn't find it today," Verlander said.
Even so, he was in a 5-5 tie with pitching adversary Jeremy Guthrie after a frenetic four innings. Verlander was ahead, 3-1, but in the third, Salvador Perez clipped him for a game-tying two-run single. And, in the fourth, the Royals loaded the bases with none out and pushed in two runs for a 5-3 lead.
"He didn't have a very good game. Simple," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And that's OK. That happens."
Then the Tigers caught a break in the fifth inning.
"We gave them the two runs there," Yost said.
Strange inning. Royals second baseman Chris Getz sustained a knee injury trying to grab a single by Prince Fielder. Guthrie had two outs with two on, when Andy Dirks hit a bouncer to first baseman Eric Hosmer, who promptly fell forward and failed to get the third out.
Hosmer intended to shovel the ball to Guthrie covering the bag.
"My first instinct was to flip it and I looked up and Guthrie had peeled off because he thought I was going to take it," Hosmer said. "That's where I've got to be telling him to get over right there. It was just a lack of communication on my part."
So Dirks got a single and Alex Avila followed with a two-run single on a sharply hit ball that a sprawling Elliot Johnson, who had replaced Getz, couldn't quite grab and it rolled away from him. So it was 5-5.
"We should have had zero runs allowed there and pick the team up after them scoring all those runs, but instead let them tie it up," Guthrie said. "When you've got to get six outs in an inning, you're going to give up some runs typically and I got bit by six outs."
Verlander got two quick outs in the Royals' half of the fifth. Up came Moustakas.
"It's Justin Verlander out there, you know, and when that guy's on, he's tough to hit," Moustakas said. "We were able to put up a couple runs against him and I was able to get a good pitch 2-0, and I just didn't miss it. He tried to run a sinker down-and-away and I was able to elevate it a little bit, and I was able to get it out of the park for us. Apparently, it was a huge run."
Apparently so, because his drive into the right-field bullpen turned out to be the winning run.
Not that there weren't some perilous moments for the Royals as the game wound down.
Royals reliever Aaron Crow gave up a single to Avila and walked pinch-hitter Don Kelly to start the eighth inning. They were bunted to second and third. Crow got Torii Hunter on a sharp grounder to Moustakas at third and the runners had to hold.
Up next: Cabrera, the right-handed blaster of Triple Crown fame. First base was open, but Yost decided against an intentional walk.
"We weren't going to let him beat us, but we also knew that he's like 0-for-6 off of Crow," Yost said.
So the deal was that Crow wasn't supposed to give Cabrera a pitch he could handle.
"Yeah, but you don't want to walk him and bring up Prince Fielder, so you go after him and see what happens," Crow said.
What happened was that Cabrera hit a sharp ground ball to Moustakas at third, not an easy play, but Hosmer picked up his throw on the bounce to end the threat.
But the drama wasn't over. Closer Greg Holland took over in the ninth and, after getting one out, Victor Martinez teed off on a shot to right field. Martinez paused and gazed as if expecting a game-tying home run.
"When you see a guy standing there in the box, obviously, I thought it was out because he stood there so long," Holland said.
However, the ball dipped into the right-field corner where David Lough came rather close to catching the ball.
"I think I might've got a piece of it. I thought I felt something when I went into the wall, but I just couldn't get to it in time," Lough said.
Martinez had a double, creating more tension until Holland retired the next two hitters for his 24th save.
Of all things, the Royals have now faced Verlander three times this season and not lost to him. In fact, they've won all three of those games. Verlander had no-decisions in the first two, both of which the Royals won in 10 innings. Now comes a loss for their old tormentor.
"It's obviously frustrating for me, but it's more frustrating for this team," Verlander said. "These guys look to me to win games, especially when they go out there and score five runs. That should be more than enough for me. Tonight it wasn't."
And the Royals now have a 5-2 record against the Tigers this season. But there are 12 games to go.