KANSAS CITY -- The Royals had an answer in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th innings Monday night. Four separate times they found themselves trailing the Yankees as the innings went by, and each time, the Royals clawed back and found themselves in a tie game.
In one wild Monday night that began as a pitchers’ duel and ended as a historic performance, it was the fifth and final deficit the Royals couldn’t fight their way back from.
New York scored three runs in the 11th inning to give Kansas City an 8-6 loss in a historic series opener at Kauffman Stadium. Monday night began with Royals starter Carlos Hernández and the Yankees’ Jameson Taillon pitching a scoreless tie entering the seventh inning.
It ended as Monday night turned to Tuesday morning with two clubs making history. It was the first game in Major League history in which both teams scored in the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings. At 4 hours, 52 minutes, it was the longest game at Kauffman Stadium since a 5 hour, 23 minute game (14 innings) on July 13, 2012, against the White Sox.
“A lot of weird things happened,” said Royals infielder Hanser Alberto, who had the game-tying RBI single in the 10th inning.
The weirdest and worst one for the Royals was the bad hop the game-winning ground ball took in the top of the 11th. Reliever Greg Holland had allowed the go-ahead run to score and loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the 11th and got a grounder from Brett Gardner -- but it was a 100.8 mph chopper that came up and hit Nicky Lopez in the jaw.
Lopez stayed down as two runs scored, but he stayed in the game and made the final putout of the frame. Manager Mike Matheny said the medical team labeled it as a “non-concussive event,” and Lopez will go through more testing on Tuesday.
“It got him pretty good,” Matheny said. “Anything that gets near him usually ends up in his glove and ends up as an out. It was a shame. Keep that as a one-run [deficit], we like our odds.
“But unfortunately, it just added up.”
After a career-best 6 2/3 innings from Hernández, in which he held the Yankees scoreless until they scored in the seventh on Luke Voit’s RBI single, the Royals called on six relievers to help.
The Yankees scored runs on all but two of them.
“Starting with Carlos, he was fantastic,” Matheny said. “He pitched today. He was aggressive, attacking the zone to where he could have a chance to be efficient and be able to stay in the game. And man, he was really good. Everything was working. Had to get some help from the ‘pen, and we used everybody to try and make it happen. Had a couple guys get it done and a couple that we had to fight back for.”
With a relentless offense, the Royals became the first team in the Modern Era to erase a deficit in the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th innings of the same game.
Jarrod Dyson got things started in the seventh by doing what he does best: Creating chaos on the basepaths. He pinch-ran for Emmanuel Rivera at first base, took second on an errant throw by reliever Jonathan Loaisiga, took third on a balk and scored on Ryan O’Hearn’s sacrifice fly.
In the eighth, the Royals tied it on Andrew Benintendi’s RBI single. In the ninth, it was Lopez who came through off lefty Zack Britton with a two-out, two-strike RBI single to send it to extra innings. In the 10th, after the Yankees scored two runs off Richard Lovelady, it was Dyson and Alberto who delivered with a sacrifice fly and RBI single.
“That’s why we got to be ready the whole time,” Alberto said. “You got to prepare yourself even if you don’t start the night, got to keep ourselves ready for those situations. We know a lot of things happen in the game, and especially we know they’ve got three or four lefties in the bullpen. You got to stay ready. We were ready the whole time. We fought, we competed. We lost at the end, but it was a great fight.”
The Royals scored another run and had two on base in the 11th against Yankees reliever Wandy Peralta with singles from Edward Olivares and Hunter Dozier.
The up-and-down journey ended with Santana’s groundout that almost hopped over third baseman Rougned Odor.
“I will not tire of talking about how hard these guys play the game,” Matheny said. “And how great of a job they do fighting back all the time. It's unique. It’s something special. Unfortunately we just got too big of a gap there in the last one.”