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Royals can't hang on late, fall in 12th inning

Maurer yields tying run in 9th as Astros rally to even series
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

HOUSTON -- It was all set up for an inspiring Royals series win over the reigning World Series champion Astros.

Royals starter Ian Kennedy was excellent, throwing seven innings of two-run ball. First baseman Hunter Dozier hit a big three-run homer and the Royals carried a one-run lead into the ninth on Saturday night at MInute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- It was all set up for an inspiring Royals series win over the reigning World Series champion Astros.

Royals starter Ian Kennedy was excellent, throwing seven innings of two-run ball. First baseman Hunter Dozier hit a big three-run homer and the Royals carried a one-run lead into the ninth on Saturday night at MInute Maid Park.

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But the Astros pushed across a soft run in the ninth off right-hander Brandon Maurer, then won it in the 12th against right-hander Justin Grimm when Carlos Correa singled with the bases loaded and none out for a 4-3 walk-off win.

The Astros loaded the bases in the 12th on a walk, a bloop single by Alex Bregman that fell between Dozier, second baseman Ryan Goins and right fielder Rosell Herrera, and an intentional walk. Correa then lined a 1-1 pitch to right-center.

Video: KC@HOU: Bregman gets to second on single, error

"Just a little inexperience I think at first base where Hunter was thinking that the second baseman was over, but he wasn't, he was up the middle," manager Ned Yost said, "and by the time he realized it nobody could make a play on the ball."

Maurer gave up a seeing-eye single to Yuli Gurriel, then a bloop single to center by Josh Reddick that sent pinch-runner Jake Marisnick to third. Marisnick then scored on a bloop sacrifice fly to left by Evan Gattis.

Video: KC@HOU: Gattis hits game-tying sac fly in the 9th

Maurer appeared to have Gurriel out on a 0-2 fastball that nicked the bottom of the strike zone.

"The heater ... it was close," Maurer said. "One of those that can go either way. Would have been a huge out. Would have got me to two outs with no one on."

Kennedy came into the game 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his career against Houston. And he was on point again this time, giving up four hits over seven innings. He walked one and struck out five.

Kennedy said he can't explain his mastery of the Astros.

"Not really. Sometimes you pitch against teams that it doesn't matter who is in the lineup," Kennedy said "Maybe it's the stadium. I don't know -- teams are bound to get you once or twice. Not yet [with the Astros]."

Dozier, who hit a two-run shot off Lance McCullers Jr. on Sunday in Kansas City, drilled a three-run opposite-field homer in the fourth this time against McCullers.

Video: KC@HOU: Dozier belts an opposite-field 3-run tater

Dozier hit a 2-1 two-seamer on a line over the right-field fence with Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon on board.

Kennedy gave two back in the bottom of the fourth, including one on a homer by Gurriel that just crawled into the left-field Crawford Boxes -- Statcast™ projected its distance at just 348 feet.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Kennedy, down to likely his last batter, made perhaps the best pitch of the night to Marwin Gonzalez with two out and one on in the seventh. With Reddick on first base, Kennedy ran the count full to Gonzalez while sitting at 103 pitches. Kennedy's next pitch was a slider that caught the outside corner at the knees, freezing Gonzalez.

Video: KC@HOU: Kennedy K's Gonzalez, ends the 7th

"We hadn't shown him slider and Salvy made the call, and I agreed with it," Kennedy said. "I wasn't trying to make it that close to the zone, I was trying to go back-foot. But it worked out."

UP NEXT
Royals right-hander Jason Hammel (2-8, 4.98 ERA) takes the mound in the series finale against the Astros at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Gerrit Cole (8-1, 2.59) will start for Houston. Hammel permitted three earned runs and a season-high four walks in 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Hunter Dozier, Ian Kennedy, Brandon Maurer