Royals miscue leads to finale loss
Throwing error by catcher spoils Aviles' 3-for-4, two-RBI day
KANSAS CITY - A botched rundown play sent the Royals into the All-Star break with a tough loss.
The Seattle Mariners took advantage of the ninth-inning mistake to defeat the Royals, 4-3, and salvage the third game of the series on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
"We play everyday and sometimes things don't go like we want," said All-Star closer Joakim Soria, the losing pitcher. "That's human -- we all make mistakes."
The Mariners barely got the ball out of the infield to score the winning run. Adrian Beltre hit a little looper that sent shortstop Mike Aviles racing into short left field where he couldn't quite make the catch. It went for a double.
"I had a good beat on it," Aviles said. "I thought I was going to get it and it just fell in. And then I tried to get him at second and he just got in there also. It was just inches away from being a completely different situation."
Beltre went to third on Jeremy Reed's sacrifice bunt and Willie Bloomquist tapped back to Soria. Beltre bolted for home.
"It was a designed play, a contact play, so he's going as soon as I make contact with the ball regardless of where it's at," Bloomquist said. "You're rolling the dice a little bit, knowing there could be a close play at the plate."
Soria threw to catcher John Buck and Beltre threw on the brakes and retreated back toward third. He looked like a dead duck but Buck lobbed a throw that went over third baseman Alex Gordon's head.
"I didn't want to throw it hard, I was just trying to get it over to Gordon because we had an out," Buck said. "Just a bad throw."
Fortunately, Aviles was backing up the play and made a barehanded save of the throw. Unfortunately, he didn't throw home where Soria was standing and waving in vain hope for a throw.
Instead, Aviles threw to second base too low and too late to get the advancing Bloomquist. Meanwhile, Beltre crossed the plate with the deciding run.
Aviles said he needed to get a throw past both Gordon and Beltre to have any chance at the plate so he threw to second instead.
"I thought I would have to throw over two people who were obviously a lot taller than me," Aviles said. "I think I'd have probably had to jump to throw and get Beltre at the plate so I opted to go to second."
Could Aviles have gotten Beltre at the plate?
"It was possible," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "It looked like it from my vantage point that he might have had a play."
Soria, watching from home plate, wasn't certain.
"I don't know," he said. "Probably. I'm not sure about that. He got the ball with a bare hand and was in a bad position to throw home. I don't know if he could've made a good throw to home."
The Royals went down in order in the ninth and their first half was over with a record of 43-53, compared to 38-50 at the All-Star break last season.
Royals starter Kyle Davies held a 2-1 lead and got two outs in the seventh. But Bloomquist singled and Jeff Clement, a .159 hitter who was in a 0-for-15 funk, belted a two-run homer to right field.
Davies threw a changeup on a full count. The wrong choice, he freely admitted.
"I was thinking about it afterwards and I had really good command of my slider, my curveball and my fastball," he said. "Why would you throw a changeup there, especially with the game 2-1 in the seventh?"
Still, the Royals scrambled back for a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh against lefty reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Ross Gload and Buck each singled and David DeJesus bunted them to second and third. Hillman was asked why DeJesus, the Majors' leading hitter with runners in scoring position (.460), did not swing away.
"I didn't have any sign on, he bunted on his own," Hillman said. "He felt more comfortable because he knew he [Rowland-Smith] was going to continue to challenge him with slider down and away. He felt like he wasn't going to get anything to pull."
Aviles, who had three singles earlier, this time hit a chopper to short that was good enough to get Gload home with the tying run. But that was it; Mark Teahen rolled into the third out.
There was no more left and the Royals' three-victory spurt was ended. At least they won the series from the Mariners.
"The bright spot of the whole thing is we took two out of three," Aviles said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.