By Jeffrey Flanagan and Robert Falkoff
MLB.com |@FlannyMLB |
KANSAS CITY -- Kendrys Morales hit a two-run homer to center field with two out in the 13th inning against Braves reliever Jason Grilli as the Royals earned a 4-2 walk-off victory on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium to win their first series since April 24 against Baltimore.
Alcides Escobar led off the inning with a single, his fourth hit of the game. With two out, Morales sent a 3-2 pitch over the 410-foot sign.
Asked how if felt to come back and win the game, and finally win a series, a noticeably exhausted Royals manager Ned Yost said, "I just want to go sit on the couch."
The Braves, trailing 2-0 in the ninth, rallied for two runs off Royals closer Wade Davis, who suffered his first blown save of the season after eight conversions. It was his first blown save since July 12, 2015, against Toronto.
"It was a tough inning," Davis said. "They did a good job getting the ball to the outfield. It sure feels a lot better that we came back and won."
Morales had gone 6-for-38 before the homer.
"I'm really happy with the outcome," Morales said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "There's a lot of harmony in the clubhouse. Everyone is pulling for each other."
Danny Duffy started and threw three shutout innings for the Royals, but he left because he was on a pitch count. Six pitchers followed, including Davis.
"I thought it went pretty well," Duffy said. "I sort of ran out of gas in the third inning and lost my legs, but I got through it. Next time I should be stronger."
The Braves had a choice to make with the switch-hitting Morales at the plate in the 13th. They could have had lefty Eric O'Flaherty pitch to Morales hitting right-handed, but the small sample statistics showed Morales was a .364 hitter from the right side (in just 33 righty at-bats) coming into the game, compared to .150 hitting left-handed. Accordingly, manager Fredi Gonzalez went to righty Grilli. But Morales foiled the strategy with his game-winning homer.
"Morales hit that ball pretty hard," said Braves second baseman Chase d'Arnaud. "It seemed like we had been trying to avoid facing him from the right side this whole series."
Gonzalez lauded his team's two-run comeback in the ninth. It could have possibly been a bigger rally if Smith hadn't made a baserunning mistake. Smith was trapped between first and second after an RBI hit to right made it 2-1.
"I thought it was a heck of a game," Gonzalez said. "I'm proud of the club for the way they battled."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Land of Hoz: Hosmer was one of the few Royals to get a good look at Wisler. Hosmer singled in Escobar in the first, and he also doubled in the sixth, though he didn't tag and advance to third when the next hitter, Morales, flied out to deep right. That cost Kansas City a run as the next hitter, Salvador Perez, singled to left and Hosmer was thrown out at home.
But Yost said Hosmer made the right decision.
"With one out, you have to go halfway there," Yost said. "That is not a baserunning mistake."
Added Hosmer, "It would have been a bigger mistake if that bounces off the wall and I don't make it to home."
Little things: The sacrifice bunt is still a big part of baseball when the game is close in the late innings. After d'Arnaud's leadoff double in the seventh, the Braves could not execute as Smith popped to the catcher trying to bunt the potential tying run to third. The Royals therefore didn't have to bring the infield in and got out of the inning unscathed.
"Those are good teaching moments, especially with a young player," Gonzalez said.
Getting defensive: Braves left fielder Ender Inciarte, who ranked second in the Major Leagues last season with 29 defensive runs saved, was at it again on Sunday. With a runner at second and two out in the sixth, Inciarte came up throwing on Perez's sharp single and nailed Hosmer at the plate to keep Atlanta within a run.
Esky defense/offense: Escobar doubled leading off the first and scored. He also singled in the third. But it was his defense that made a difference in the seventh. The Braves had d'Arnaud on second and one out when pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson grounded one to Escobar's right. For some reason, d'Arnaud tried to advance to third, but Escobar threw him out. Then Nick Markakis grounded to deep short, but Escobar made a nice stop and threw low to first, and Hosmer made an outstanding pick for the out to end the inning. More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After Escobar's RBI bloop hit to right in the eighth, he tried for a double. Escobar was called out at second and the Royals issued a challenge. After a review, the call was ruled as stands.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves: Right-hander Williams Perez (1-0, 3.54 ERA), who needed only 85 pitches to get through eight innings in a win over the Phillies last Wednesday, will try to stay on that pitch efficiency track on Monday in the opener of a road set against the Pirates at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Royals: Right-hander Yordano Ventura (3-2, 4.62) takes the mound on Monday for the opener of a three-game home set against the Red Sox at 6:08 p.m. CT. Ventura gave up three runs over six innings in a 7-3 win over the Yankees last Wednesday.