KANSAS CITY -- Now, with a whirl of fine starting pitching performances engulfing the Royals, Will Smith has joined the fun.
Smith, a rookie left-hander, pitched his second straight victory and Chris Getz delivered a go-ahead double on Wednesday night, as the Royals downed the Oakland A's, 3-2, to entertain 15,591 fans at Kauffman Stadium. At least Smith thought they should have been entertained.
"That was a fun baseball game, I thought," Smith said. "People going blow-for-blow. It was fun."
Yes, and a brutal July has yielded to a pleasant August for the perked-up Royals. The victory gave them a 9-5 record so far this month after they limped through July with a 7-19 record.
"Things have stabilized and we're definitely going in the right direction," manager Ned Yost said.
In fact, counting a victory on the last day of July, the Royals have won 10 of their last 15 games. Their starting pitchers have an 8-5 record in that span compared to a wretched 4-15 from July 1-29.
"It's a grind, but we're working harder to pitch deeper into games and it's working out for us," Smith said.
The Royals overcame the A's 2-1 lead in the seventh inning. After right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy got two outs, Eric Hosmer doubled into the left-field corner and scored on Lorenzo Cain's double that eluded leaping left fielder Yoenis Cespedes at the bullpen fence.
"I thought he was going to catch it," Cain said. "I was looking at him the entire time and it looked like he had a good bead on it, but I guess I got it up high enough to hit it off the top of the fence. And I'll take it."
With the score tied at 2, McCarthy was relieved by left-hander Sean Doolittle who embarked on an 11-pitch duel with Getz by getting ahead in the count.
"Ideally you don't want to start 0-2," Getz said. "He kept on throwing his heater and showing his offspeed stuff, and he just kept on battling and battling and battling. It was one of those at-bats where you kind of get more comfortable as time goes on, once you've seen everything, and eventually you're fortunate enough to sneak one in there."
Getz, a left-handed batter, poked a line drive down the left-field line as Cain raced home.
"Getz, geez-oh-pea," Yost declared. "I don't know if that's the best at-bat of the year, but it's darn sure in the top five, an 11-pitch at-bat against a tough left-hander to drive in the winning run was a great job."
Smith went seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits and one walk to even his record at 4-4. Yost was especially pleased that Smith did so well, considering that he didn't have his best fastball going.
"When you're a young pitcher and you don't have your best stuff, you know it and you tend to fight yourself in those situations," Yost said. "You try to be too perfect and just end up getting your brains beat in. But this kid went out tonight and competed his tail off."
Smith fell behind, 2-1, in the fourth inning when Josh Donaldson lofted a solo home run down the left-field line.
"I was praying it would go foul but it didn't," Smith said. "That's my fault. He did his part -- he hit a good pitch. I thought I made a good pitch, it was down and he golfed it out so he did his part. He's a good hitter."
And Smith is starting to look like a good pitcher.
"I thought we had some chances against him early on," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He got out of some jams. He got better when his back was to the wall."
Case in point: After Jonny Gomes walked and Cespedes got an infield single to start the sixth, Smith retired the next three batters without a ball leaving the infield.
After Smith was finished, Aaron Crow pitched a perfect eighth inning and Greg Holland survived a leadoff single by Chris Carter in the ninth to record his fourth save as the Royals' closer.
"We're starting to play really good baseball," Smith said. "Our pitching's coming around, our offense is there, we're playing really good defense. So everything's a team effort right now."
At least August feels a lot better than July.
"We've gone through plenty of struggles this year, more than anyone wanted or anticipated or any of those things, but we're just going to try to ride this out," Getz said. "We feel like we've got a good group of guys, all working toward the same goal, and hopefully we can keep on going."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.