This time, Royals make comeback
KC scores two runs in eighth inning to avoid sweep
KANSAS CITY -- Alex Gordon provided Royals fans with some vastly entertaining sights on Thursday afternoon.
There was a two-run homer that got the game off to a bang. There was a chalk-raising double down the right-field line to stir a comeback.
Most of all, there was a headlong sprawl across home plate that gave the Royals a 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers, salvaging the final game of the series for 15,515 at Kauffman Stadium.
"Game on the line. Close play. You've got to do all you can do to make the play happen," Gordon said.
The Royals had just fallen behind, 5-4, in the eighth and the Rangers were sniffing their first three-game sweep in 40 years of playing in Kansas City.
Not so fast, aroma boys. The wind was about to change.
Alberto Callaspo lashed a single to left against reliever Frank Francisco. Gordon pulled a double that skipped off the right-field line.
"The whole time I was like, 'That's foul,' but at the last minute it hit chalk, so baseball's a game of inches sometimes," Gordon said.
Perhaps the imposing presence of smoking-hot Jose Guillen at the plate rattled Francisco. At any rate, he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Callaspo to score the tying run easily and Gordon moved to third.
Guillen lofted a fly ball to medium-depth center field and third-base coach Luis Silverio energetically waved Gordon home.
Gordon dove to his right, reached over with his left hand and caressed the plate as he jetted past. Marlon Byrd's throw was a millisecond late.
"I hit the plate, but I don't think it was very pretty. I think I did a couple rolls at the end, but I've not been known to be a good slider," he said.
Plenty good enough to put the Royals ahead and give Guillen his 50th RBI of the season. Guillen also banged his American League-leading 23rd double and extended his hitting streak to seven games (16-for-29, .552).
Gordon gave the Royals a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Eric Hurley, a right-hander from Sikeston, Mo., who was making his Major League debut. After Callaspo's single, Gordon sent a 3-2 pitch flying over the right-field wall.
Gordon's getting some pitches to hit these days.
"When you've got Jose hitting behind you, the way he's swinging it right now, you know that they're going to come after you," Gordon said.
Mike Aviles got his first big league homer, also a two-run shot, in the fourth after John Buck was hit by a pitch. The rookie shortstop is hitting .321 in eight games so far.
The home run ball was retrieved for him.
"It's in my locker. I put it in a sock. I'm going to send it back home and put it in my little case where I have all my first everythings," Aviles said.
Sandwiched between the Royals' two homers was the Rangers' four-run second inning against Brian Bannister. He gave up two homers -- a three-run shot by German Duran, the Rangers' No. 9 hitter, was followed by Ian Kinsler's solo blast.
"This is a potent lineup. I know they're tough and that's disappointing -- to be beat by Duran because there are so many other guys I was concerned with and preparing for," Bannister said.
But he rebounded nicely, shaking off a shot that drilled his shin and following up with five shutout innings in which he surrendered just one hit.
"It was good to see us come back after getting down," manager Trey Hillman said. "It was a gutsy performance by Banny, especially after the ball off the shin. It's just good to see us feel like we could come back and keep fighting and finish off a game."
Ah, yes. Finish off. That once again fell to Joakim Soria, the closer who had missed two games with sore hindquarters. He reeled off a one-two-three ninth for his 15th save.
After two stunning losses -- the bullpen blew back-to-back 5-1 leads to the Rangers -- just knowing that Soria was available gave the Royals a boost.
"It helps confidence-wise, there's no doubt," Hillman said. "It makes a big difference psychologically."
So did pulling out a victory, just the fifth in the last 24 games.
"Everybody's playing hard, we're just trying to get through this," Bannister said. "We have all the pieces, we've just been kind of beaten down mentally lately."
This should help.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.