Royals squeak past Rockies in wild win
KC wins second series in a row, finishes road trip 6-4
DENVER -- Joel Peralta heard one piece of advice from home-plate umpire Marty Foster when he came to the plate for his first Major League at-bat in the top of the 12th inning Sunday afternoon: "Enjoy, have fun."
Peralta certainly did, smoking a two-run double to left-center field for his first big-league hit. The unique at-bat and the rare hit capped off a wild 10-5 win over the Rockies at Coors Field. Not only did the contest last 12 innings and took a season-high four hours and 34 minutes to complete, but the teams had to battle through high winds, rain and lightning that lit up the sky.
"This game is so crazy," manager Buddy Bell said.
And few games are crazier than Sunday's. Both teams pulled out all the stops, emptying their benches and bullpens. Overall, 13 pitchers saw work, including the entire KC bullpen. Bell also deployed every position player except catcher John Buck.
Without Peralta, it could have produced a loss. He pitched out of an 11th-inning jam and preserved a 5-5 tie before the Royals rebounded for five runs in the top of the 12th.
The majority of the offense came from unlikely suspects, but none was more unlikely than Peralta. Alex Gordon, batting .177 for the year, was hit by a pitch to start the rally. He stole second and broke the stalemate when Ryan Shealy, hitting .214, lofted a broken bat single over second baseman Jamey Carroll's head. After a strikeout, Mark Grudzielanek doubled and Angel Berroa drove in his first run of the year with a squeeze play.
The Rockies elected to intentionally walk David DeJesus and face Peralta, a former outfielder who hit .247 in 52 games for the Oakland Athletics Summer League team in 1997. After missing the 1998 season because of an injury, Peralta was signed by the Angels and immediately started pitching -- and didn't see the batter's box until Sunday.
He and his fellow pitchers weren't expecting much. Starter Brian Bannister and many of the Royals' relief corps were watching the game on the clubhouse's big screen television when Peralta came to the plate. Everyone was stunned when Peralta laced a Ramon Ramirez pitch deep into left-center.
"He hits bloops over the first head in batting practice," Zack Greinke joked. "That's what was so shocking about it."
"I still can't believe it," he said. "I have no idea how it happened."
Peralta also delivered on the mound, earning his first win of the season after working out of the 11th and tossing a scoreless 12th. He earned his third victory of his Major League career and captured his first win since May 2006 against Cleveland.
"The key to the whole thing really was the job Peralta did," Bell said.
With the Royals leading 5-4 in the 11th, Brandon Duckworth put the first three Rockies on base and allowed the tying run. With runners on first and second, Bell pulled Duckworth and brought in Peralta -- the last reliever in the bullpen for the Royals.
"[Pitching coach Bob McClure] told me to keep the ball down and try to throw a double play," Peralta said.
Mission accomplished. The right-hander struck out Garrett Atkins and coaxed a double play from Brad Hawpe. After a rough start, the outing lowered Peralta's season ERA to 4.78, his best mark since April 12.
"I have not been doing too good this season, but hopefully, I can get things turned around a little bit with this performance," he said.
The same could apply to the Royals. A team that had a rough start finished a 6-4 road trip and won back-to-back series for the first time this season. Since a heartbreaking, ninth-inning loss to the White Sox last Saturday, Kansas City has won six of eight.
"That's saying something about our guys," Bell said. "I am really proud of them. Since that loss to Chicago, we have played pretty good."
The bullpen, the team's weakest point in the season's first month, solidified, posting a 3.27 ERA on the road trip.
"That was the key, when the bullpen started coming around," Peralta said.
The bullpen nearly lost the game in the ninth when Joakim Soria blew a save. With two outs and no one on, Shealy made an error and Troy Tulowitzki was hit by a pitch. Matt Holliday knotted the game at 4 with a base hit up the middle.
"You can't walk guys, hit guys, you can't make errors, especially against this team because it's going to hurt you," Bell said.
Helped by Peralta's pitching and hitting, the miscues didn't.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.