With two on and two out and a one-run lead, beleaguered Royals reliever Joakim Soria surrendered a two-run double to left-handed pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso in a four-run eighth as the A's rallied for a stunning 5-4 win on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals' fading postseason hopes took another hit as they fell five games behind Baltimore for an American League Wild Card spot, with the Orioles' 6-3 win over the Red Sox.
"That's a really hard situation to come into, but early on, I knew I was going to have a meaningful opportunity with the game on the line to come up for a big at-bat, so my whole mindset was just to be prepared, make sure I had a good approach and hopefully hit it and have it land somewhere," Alonso said.
Soria suffered his seventh blown save this season, though he avoided tying the franchise record for losses (nine). Soria inherited two baserunners, and the loss therefore went to Matt Strahm. Kelvin Herrera would have pitched the eighth, but he was in line for the ninth because closer Wade Davis was unavailable after throwing over 50 pitches on Saturday and Sunday.
"I got confidence in all my players," manager Ned Yost said. "That's just the way it is. If I don't have confidence in a player, I'm not going to have him on this team. I had confidence in Jack.
"I thought the situation was a good situation for him. I didn't mind the matchup with Alonso. I thought that we improved our odds -- .315 against a left, .265 against a righty. Jack's had two days off.
"Ultimately, it's my plan. I'm responsible for my plan, and that was my plan, it didn't work."
The blown save spoiled a solid night from Royals starter Danny Duffy, who gave up three runs -- two on solo homers to Khris Davis and Ryon Healy -- over 7 1/3 innings.
"Davis hit that ball about 600 feet," Duffy said. "But this one is on me. I can't walk [Brett] Eibner in that situation and I can't leave a ball over the plate to Healy. This one is on me, no ifs, ands or buts."
A's rookie right-hander Jharel Cotton, who won his Major League debut with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball last Wednesday, was almost as good in a no-decision on Tuesday. Cotton kept the Royals guessing with his changeup and curve, and gave up seven hits and one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out two.
"I'm just going out there pitching the way I know how to pitch, not trying to do anything special," Cotton said. "Just go out there and give my team a chance to win every time."
Closer Ryan Madson got Eric Hosmer to ground out to end the game and record his 30th save. The Royals had a runner on second after Madson's balk scored a run to make it 5-4.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rookie keeps raking: Healy continues to impress with his bat, collecting two of just three hits allowed by Duffy, including a solo home run that jumpstarted the A's late-inning comeback -- his ninth since being called up after the All-Star break. Healy has homered in three of his last six games and has recorded six multi-hit games this month.
"He's a confident young man," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We've struggled this year, and now we have some younger guys up and we seem to be getting an infusion of intensity with these guys. They really have something to play for. These guys are hungry to make a name for themselves."
Mr. RISP:Paulo Orlando snapped an 0-for-10 slide on Monday night with a two-run double. On Tuesday, Orlando was at it again, rolling a two-out, two-run single through the six-hole. He came into the game hitting .314 with runners in scoring position. He also came into the game hitting .328 with two outs, good for seventh best in the Major Leagues.
Semien atones for error: Two unearned runs scored on Cotton's watch in the fourth inning, when shortstop Marcus Semien made an error on a potential inning-ending grounder off the bat of Alcides Escobar ahead of Orlando's two-run single. Semien did his best to make up for the blunder, notching an RBI single as part of the A's four-run eighth inning.
Esky magic: Escobar was pesky to the A's all night. He singled in the first inning, and after reaching on an error in the fourth, he stole second, allowing him to score on Orlando's grounder to left. Then with two out in the sixth and Salvador Perez on second, Escobar poked a single to shallow right, and Perez scored when A's catcher Stephen Vogt couldn't handle the one-hop throw from right fielder and former Royal Eibner.
WHAT'S NEXT Athletics: Left-hander Sean Manaea (5-9, 4.40 ERA) will make his first start against the organization that drafted him on Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. PT, getting the nod against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. It will be Manaea's first start since Aug. 29, when he departed early with back discomfort.
Royals: Right-hander Yordano Ventura (10-10, 4.26) gets the start on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. CT for the third game in this four-game series. Ventura gave up four earned runs and 10 hits over seven innings in a loss to the White Sox on Friday.