One of the Royals' most effective relievers of late, Greg Holland, was the victim as the Angels snapped a 3-3 tie to the overwhelming delight of 35,047 fans at Angel Stadium.
Holland hadn't made many mistakes since coming off the disabled list May 11. Since then he'd allowed just five runs in 30 appearances for a 1.63 ERA -- until Monday night.
After getting two quick outs to start the eighth, Holland gave up a single to Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis doubled on a bouncer over first baseman Eric Hosmer. Callaspo, not wanting to test right fielder Jeff Francoeur's arm, held at third base. That brought up Peter Bourjos, who walked on four straight pitches.
"We weren't pitching around him," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We knew Morales was going to hit so we sent Brayan [Pena] out there after the first two pitches and said, 'Look, really focus on getting the ball down.' We talked about: Do we walk Bourjos? Because Bourjos is dangerous in that situation, too; he's got tremendous speed, he chops down, a lot of infield hits. But we had a pretty good idea that Morales was going to hit for the catcher and we wanted to go right after Bourjos."
That didn't happen and the bases were loaded as Morales came up in Bobby Wilson's spot.
"I didn't want to [walk Bourjos], he was hitting .226 coming into the game but I felt comfortable getting Morales out and I fell behind him," Holland said. "I got the count back to 1-1 and left a pitch up in the middle of the plate."
Morales scalded a line drive that thudded into the right-field wall and he stopped at first base and watched the three runners all scamper across the plate.
"The two-strike pitch to Callaspo, the walk to Bourjos and the pitch out over the plate to Morales, they were all just mistakes and they cost us the game," Holland said.
"From the seventh on, I know I have a chance," said Morales. "If it comes and they're going to call on me, I'm going to be ready. Knowing who's coming up from the bullpen, mentally and physically, I was ready. I got the chance. It was an elevated pitch, and I took advantage."
This was the first time that Morales had faced Holland. Previously in his career as a pinch-hitter, Morales was just 5-for-36 (.139) with three RBIs. So with this one hit, he matched his entire pinch-hitting RBI total.
Before that the Royals and left-hander Bruce Chen had managed a 3-3 standoff with the Angels' left-handed starter, C.J. Wilson. They teams traded two-run innings in the third.
The Royals' half could've been bigger had not Bourjos, the center fielder, jumped up to take away a home run from Lorenzo Cain. Instead of a two-run blast, Cain had to settle for a sacrifice fly.
"If you notice, their outfielders are so fast that that enables them to play deep so he didn't have to go a tremendously long way to catch that ball. He got set up under it really nice and made the play," Yost said.
The Angels went ahead, 3-2, in the sixth, an inning that Bruce Chen began by walking Howie Kendrick, who moved to second on a groundout and then stole third base. With the infield in, he scored when Izturis sliced a single into right field.
"What started that mess was walking the leadoff hitter," Yost said. "The walks are kind of hurting us right now in crucial situations and that was one of them and Bourjos was another one. We've got to find ways to eliminate that."
Chen left the game at that point and Kelvin Herrera ended the inning with two strikeouts. Chen felt as if he fared rather well against the American League's second-best hitting club.
"They have a very good team and they're very tough on lefties -- their whole lineup is right-handed," Chen said. "I thought I made good pitches, I battled. It's tough when you have to face [Albert] Pujols, Torii Hunter, [Mark] Trumbo, [Mike] Trout. We were close and we did everything we could."
But they ran smack into a road block.