KANSAS CITY -- Jarrod Dyson lined a two-run single to right with one out in the eighth inning and the bullpen hung tough over seven-plus innings as the Royals held on for a 3-1 win over the Pirates on Tuesday night in front of 38,163 fans at Kauffman Stadium.
The winning rally got going when Omar Infante hit a ground ball that went right through the legs of Pirates second baseman Neil Walker for an error. Alex Rios singled to left-center with Rios taking second on the throw, setting up Dyson's heroics.
"It didn't do anything," Walker said of Infante's grounder, discounting any unexpected movement of the ball. "It just went right under my glove. I missed it. I feel worse than any, to put [Gerrit] Cole in that situation."
The inning spoiled a terrific start from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole, who allowed just two earned runs over 7 1/3 innings. Cole walked none and struck out six, giving up just five hits.
"You can count on two hands, maybe a little more than two, the bona fide aces in this game," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "And he's one of them. So to beat him, yeah, it's a big win."
Royals left-hander Jason Vargas, just activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, left the game after 1 1/3 innings following a 2-1 pitch to Brent Morel. Later, Royals officials indicated Vargas exited due to left medial elbow pain and is slated to have an MRI on Wednesday. Vargas already had two stints on the disabled list for a left flexor strain.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cutch's heart-stopping swing:Andrew McCutchen went down on the ground upon sending a sixth-inning grounder to short, never leaving the batter's box as Alcides Escobar threw to first for the out. McCutchen slowly made his way back to the dugout, massaging his upper thigh. But when the inning ended, he was able to take his place defensively in center.
"The ground just gave out under me. It couldn't take the force on my swing," McCutchen said later, jovially, explaining he'd started rubbing his leg "to check everything, make sure it was all in place. It was, so I was OK."
Blanton to the rescue: After the injury to Vargas, the Royals turned to long man Joe Blanton to keep them close. And Blanton was sensational, going 3 2/3 scoreless innings while giving up just two singles and walking none. He struck out five. Blanton got the Royals through five innings at 0-0. More >
Esky's rocket: Escobar saved a run (and maybe the game) in the ninth with a terrific relay throw home after securing a throw from center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who was retrieving Jung Ho Kang's double. Starling Marte tried to score from first as Escobar threw a bullet to catcher Salvador Perez to nail Marte. The Pirates scored a run and later loaded the bases off closer Greg Holland, who finally struck out Gregory Polanco to end the game.
"That was just sick, man," Dyson said of Escobar's throw. "Lo got the ball to the guy with the best arm and he made a perfect throw."
Yost joked that he wasn't worried had Marte scored.
"Nah, Holly [Holland] would have gotten a double play," Yost said.
CREW CHIEF REVIEW
In the second inning, Marte drilled a shot into the left-field corner that somehow hit below the fence railing yet caromed sideways and back into the Royals' bullpen. It was originally ruled a home run, but under a crew chief review, it was overturned to a ground-rule double. More >
PIRATES WIN CHALLENGE
The Bucs successfully challenged the call that Sean Rodriguez had bounced into an inning-ending double play in the fifth, when replay review indicated he had beaten second baseman Infante's relay throw to first. The overturned call was inconsequential as Polanco bounced out to end the inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Right-hander Charlie Morton will start the finale of this three-game set on Wednesday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Morton is winless in his last six road Interleague starts, going 0-4 with a 4.50 ERA.
Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez gets the ball for the series finale at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Volquez, who played last season for the Pirates, lost his last outing, 2-0, to the White Sox. He went 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs.