HOUSTON -- Alex Gordon broke open a tight game with a key two-run double in a three-run eighth inning and the Royals took advantage of some shabby Astros defense to earn their first win of the season, 5-1, on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Royals, who scored five runs over their first three games, loaded the bases in the sixth and seventh innings, but scored just one run -- when Paolo Orlando reached on catcher's interference with two outs after his bat hit Evan Gattis' glove on a 1-2 count. But they loaded the bases again in the eighth and didn't waste the opportunity.
One out after Gattis' passed ball scored Salvador Perez, Gordon smacked a two-out double to the wall in left, turning a 3-1 lead into a 5-1 advantage in what is the biggest Royals' hit in the young season.
"It's crazy," Gordon said. "It's a weird game. Sometimes you line out hard, then you score when someone's bat hits the catcher's mitt."
Royals manager Ned Yost was relieved his offense finally came through.
"We had to grind it out," Yost said. "We had opportunities to tack on runs. We just couldn't get it across until Gordy finally got the big double. You knew that sooner or later we were going to break out and get a big hit. Gordy got one."
The two starting pitchers, Royals left-hander Jason Vargas and Astros right-hander Mike Fiers, were solid through six innings each. Vargas allowed one run on six hits, striking out six, while Fiers gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits, striking out three.
"We never solved his abilities to change speeds," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He mixed and matched all day. We couldn't create any stress on him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Royals finally solve the 7th: The Royals had been victimized by horrendous seventh innings this season -- 14 runs allowed in that frame through the first three games. And Friday night, it looked like the Astros were going to add to that misery when Carlos Correa led off with a single and scored on Carlos Beltran's double off Vargas, cutting the lead to 2-1. Yost opted for submarine-style right-hander Peter Moylan, who struck out the first two hitters he faced. After a walk, Yost brought in Travis Wood for a lefty-lefty matchup with Norichika Aoki. Wood got Aoki to line out, and the Astros' last good scoring opportunity vanished.
"Moylan came in and just did a phenomenal job," Yost said.
Gattis' rough day: Fiers nearly worked out of a tough jam in the sixth after he loaded the bases by walking Mike Moustakas and Brandon Moss and giving up a single to Eric Hosmer. With two outs, Fiers quickly got ahead of Orlando, 0-2. Two pitches later, Orlando fouled a ball off, but was awarded first base on catcher's interference on Gattis, allowing a run to score. In the eighth, the Royals pushed their lead to 3-1 when Perez scored on a passed ball by Gattis.
"I guess [the bat] hit my glove before the ball," Gattis said. "It happens. I guess I got to keep my glove back further. I guess I just reached for the ball a little bit. It's frustrating." More >
"I never saw the rally in Game 4 [of the American League Division Series in 2015] here. I went into the bullpen bathroom when the rally started and we started getting hits. And CY [Chris Young] told me to stay in there for good luck." -- Left-hander Danny Duffy, on the Royals' famous five-run eighth in an eventual 9-6 win
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Perez's solo home run in the second had an exit velocity of 104.2 mph according to Statcast™, and it had an estimated distance of 409 feet. The hit probability was 86 percent.
Beltran's seventh-inning double to center that scored Correa not only chased Vargas from the game and cut the deficit to 2-1, it was Beltran's 1,537th career RBI, tying him with Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio for 49th in MLB history. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Duffy makes his second start of season, as the Royals take on the Astros at 6:10 p.m. CT on Saturday. Duffy was strong on Opening Day against the Twins, throwing six innings and giving up one run on three hits. He struck out eight.
Astros: Following an Opening Day performance that was typical of his 2015 Cy Young Award winning campaign, Dallas Keuchel makes his second start of the season on Saturday in a 6:10 p.m. CT start against the Royals. In beating the Mariners on Monday, Keuchel threw seven scoreless innings. The left-hander owns a 3-1 career record against the Royals.