Comeback kings! Witt rallies Royals from EIGHT down to win

June 8th, 2024

KANSAS CITY -- lives for these moments. He prepares for them almost daily, simulating the feeling of stepping to the plate in big situations.

Bottom of the ninth. Game on the line. What are you going to do?

Here’s what he did Friday night at Kauffman Stadium to set up the Royals’ 10-9 walk-off win over the Mariners: The Royals’ star shortstop ripped a game-tying triple into the left-field corner. He raced around the bases so fast it felt like he was flying, going from home to third in 10.98 seconds, and he made it safely into third after a long slide.

“I try to kind of simulate them beforehand so when you’re in that moment, it’s not like, ‘Oh, wow, what is this?’” Witt said. “To make those things as easy as possible. Try to play in slow motion. Try to let the game come to me. And enjoy every moment.

“Because I know with this team that we have, you just have to do your part, and the next guy is going to do their part. That's how resilient we are and just how we play the game.”

Witt’s confidence in those behind him was justified Friday. The Mariners intentionally walked Vinnie Pasquantino and Salvador Perez to load the bases with one out for Nelson Velázquez. He smoked a ball to shortstop J.P. Crawford, who bobbled the ball, getting an out at second but unable to turn two.

The Royals won despite trailing by seven in the first inning and by eight entering the bottom of the fourth.

But the feeling that Friday night might be special settled in long before the ninth inning. They don’t like trailing, that’s to be sure, but not even a seven-run first inning allowed by starter Daniel Lynch IV could dim the Royals’ relentlessness.

“I looked at Sam [Long] and said, ‘I’ve got a funny feeling we’re going to win this thing,’” said rookie reliever Will Klein, who tossed two scoreless innings to keep the Royals within two runs.


“We have some of the best frickin' hitters in baseball,” Klein said.

There is something about facing the Mariners at Kauffman Stadium that screams “comeback.” The eight runs Friday marked the Royals’ largest comeback win since Sept. 25, 2022, when they stormed back from down nine runs against these Mariners to match the largest comeback victory in franchise history.

Forty years ago to the day, the Royals overcame an early seven-run deficit to the Mariners to win, 9-8, on June 7, 1984.

And the 2024 team? Well, they have a knack for getting to an opposing starter the second and third time through the order and the bullpen late. MJ Melendez’s three-run homer as part of the Royals’ four-run fourth inning got them back in the game.

A three-run sixth inning -- that included walks from Perez and Velázquez and a two-run single from Hunter Renfroe -- put the Royals within two runs and striking distance.

Unable to come through in the seventh or eighth, the Royals still felt confident in the ninth. Belief from their captain trickled through the dugout.

“Salvy was yelling, ‘We’ll get them in the ninth,’” manager Matt Quatraro said. “They believe it.”

Witt, meanwhile, was going through the dugout asking his teammates, “You guys like walk-offs?”

Who doesn’t?

Nick Loftin led off the ninth with a walk, and Garrett Hampson chopped an infield single in front of the plate, using his speed to force an errant throw from third baseman Josh Rojas. That put runners on second and third for Maikel Garcia, whose groundout brought the Royals within one.

Witt got to two strikes quickly but took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself and “be where my feet are,” he said.

Moments later, his feet were on third base.

The back-to-back intentional walks handed the moment to Velázquez. As Perez was walking down the first-base line, he clapped his hands and yelled at Velázquez.

“He said, ‘Hey, let’s do it. You can do it,’” Velázquez said. “[That] gave me some support and energy. That’s what everyone wants in those situations. Something you really appreciate from your teammate. And you go with some good vibes to the plate.”

Velázquez took a first-pitch ball but admitted he got “excited” on the next two pitches, taking some big hacks. With two strikes, he shortened up.

“Now I have to put the ball in play,” Velázquez told himself. And when he hit that hard grounder to Crawford, Velázquez ran as hard as he could to first base to beat out any potential for a double play.

“Just putting the ball in play,” Witt said. “Put pressure on the defense. Make them make the plays. … That’s what [Royals] baseball is all about. Got to put the ball in play. We’re in a bigger ballpark, and we’ll hit our home runs, but just try to create havoc on the basepaths, make chaos for the other team.”