KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On the hottest day this year in Kansas City, dehydration was starting to become a concern. Players were exhausted. Royals manager Ned Yost was starting to feel sorry for Tony Randazzo behind the plate, and he wasn’t even the umpire whose face had been bloodied in the game.
Billy Butler’s tiebreaking home run in the eighth was an especially welcome sight, leading the Royals to a 5-4 victory and three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It was really, really hot out there,” said Butler, who greeted reliever Burke Badenhop with his 15th home run. “It was over 100 degrees. Guys were starting to get dehydrated. It was not a good day to go extra innings.”
Yost said trainers had IVs waiting in the locker room.
“We were going to start losing guys,” Yost said. “We had some guys who were starting to cramp. Eric Hosmer’s elbow was starting to get a little stiff. The umpire was about ready to fall out behind home plate. The heat out there was pretty oppressive. When Billy hit that ball, I was just hoping it was high enough.”
Aaron Crow (1-1), the fifth Royals pitcher, was the winner after getting two outs in the eighth as the Royals recorded their first home sweep of the Rays in 11 years.
“It’s been hot the last few days,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “But I tell you what, you didn’t hear one guy complain. They played right down to the last out. They were great.”
Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar also homered for the Royals, who managed to sweep a team three games immediately after getting swept themselves. After a potentially ruinous 12-game losing streak in April, the youthful Royals have fought back to five games under .500 (34-39).
“It would be nice if we made things easier for ourselves once in a while,” said Jeff Francoeur. “This is the third time now we’ve fought back to get to five games under .500, but then we just take a few steps back. Our goal was to get back to .500 by the All-Star break.”
The Rays had tied it 4-4 in the top of the eighth after Carlos Pena reached leading off on an error that left first base umpire Brian Gorman wiping off blood. Pena’s hot grounder glanced off first baseman Hosmer’s glove and struck Gorman on the left side of the face as he was signaling the ball fair.
The veteran ump cleaned some blood off his face but stayed in the game after being attended to by the Royals’ trainer. Then Tim Collins walked Jeff Keppinger and Ben Zobrist unloaded a two-run triple.
“He had a little cut,” said Yost. “But he’s fine. Gorman’s fine.”
Zobrist was 3 for 4 with three RBIs but made three outs on the bases. He was thrown out twice at home plate trying to score from third on ground balls.
“It’s a tough way to end the road trip,” said Zobrist. “They (Royals) were playing great over there. They did everything. They hit the ball really well, they pitched well, and played good defense. We couldn’t get anything going.”
Jonathan Broxton pitched the ninth for his 19th save in 22 opportunities.
Badenhop (1-2) recorded only one out after starter Matt Moore labored through 7 1-3 innings, giving up 10 hits and four runs.
Moustakas, who had two home runs on Sunday, hit the first pitch he saw from Moore in the first inning for his 13th home run. Escobar, who has seven multihit games in his last 12, was 3 for 3 with a double, a single and a solo homer that made it 2-0 in the third.
Yuniesky Betancourt had a two-run single in the fifth as the Royals completed a 3-3 homestand after getting swept by St. Louis.
Just hours after being recalled from Triple-A Omaha, Everett Teaford was charged with two runs on four hits in 5 innings. The left-hander was relieved by Kelvin Herrera with runners at first and second in the sixth and the Rays made it 4-2 on RBI singles from Keppinger and Zobrist before Zobrist ended the inning attempting to steal second.
NOTES: The Royals won’t have another home game for 16 days. They open a 10-day, 11-game trip on Friday in Minnesota and then take four days off for the All-Star break. … The Rays will play 17 of their next 21 at home. … As soon as the last out was recorded on Wednesday, the makeover began for the All-Star game and festivities in Kauffman Stadium. … Moustakas made an outstanding play at third to save a run, stopping Elliot Johnson’s hot smash with two out and throwing him out while Sean Rodriguez ran home from third.
– Associated Press –