KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Royals were trying to dig out of an early five-run hole against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, and had the bases loaded with one out and Lorenzo Cain at the plate.
He grounded into an inning-ending double-play.
Funny thing happened, though: It didn’t seem to deter the Royals one bit.
In the ultimate show of resiliency, Kansas City kept plugging along, scratching away at the Rays’ big lead. And by the time the Royals put up five runs in the sixth inning, they were well on their way to a 9-8 victory on a cold, blustery Wednesday night.
“We had opportunities early to get a big hit and just couldn’t,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “But they just continued to battle, get good at-bats and get in good position until we could break through like we did in the sixth inning.”
Elliot Johnson homered against his former team early in the game, but Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur provided the key hits during that sixth-inning rally. Both of them finished with a pair of RBIs, helping Kansas City earn its second straight come-from-behind victory.
“Our goal is to get the first one or two guys on every inning and then let whatever is going to happen, happen,” Francoeur said. “Tonight we were able to do that.”
Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist and Luke Scott each homered for the Rays, who dropped to 4-11 on the road this season. Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson allowed four runs in five innings.
“That’s a pretty revealing statistic that in 10 of our 15 losses we’ve had the lead and given them up,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We just can’t do that.”
Bruce Chen (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Royals starter Luis Mendoza, and Greg Holland worked a perfect ninth inning in a light drizzle for his seventh save.
Kansas City will go for the series sweep on Thursday, assuming the game is even played. The forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 30s with a good chance of rain or snow.
It was 66 degrees and partly sunny at first pitch Wednesday, but the weather deteriorated quickly. The temperature dropped into the upper 40s by the later innings, and winds gusting more than 30 mph to right field turned every ball hit out of the infield into an adventure.
“When we were in batting practice, we were all in short sleeves and sunglasses, and once the game started it dropped from that point on,” Yost said. “It definitely cooled way, way off.”
Tampa Bay was hot from the start, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on Joyce and Zobrist’s back-to-back homers. The solo shots also gave Tampa Bay at least one homer in 16 straight games, setting a new franchise record.
Kelly Johnson’s RBI double and Desmond Jennings’ sacrifice fly made it 4-0 in the second, and Evan Longoria’s triple in the third turned into another run on James Loney’s base hit.
Kansas City clawed back in the bottom half when Johnson homered over the wall in right field, his first home run since last September when he was still with the Rays.
Scott answered for Tampa Bay with a solo shot in the fourth, but the Royals scored again in the bottom half when Gordon’s two-out base hit cut the Rays’ lead to 6-2.
Kansas City kept peppering Hellickson in the fifth, this time with a leadoff double by Billy Butler and an RBI triple by Cain. Mike Moustakas followed with a sacrifice fly to center field that allowed Kansas City to get within two runs.
“It looked like we were behind the eight-ball,” Butler said, “but we just stayed within ourselves and kept pecking away.”
The Royals finally pulled ahead off Jake McGee (0-2) in the sixth.
They loaded the bases with two outs for Butler, who hit a liner right back at McGee that the pitcher managed to knock down but still scored a run. Eric Hosmer then hit a grounder deep in the hole at shortstop, and Yunel Escobar’s bobble allowed the tying run to score.
Cain followed with a blooper to center that gave Kansas City the lead, and Francoeur greeted new reliever Kyle Farnsworth with a two-run single that made it 9-6.
Tim Collins entered for the Royals and coughed up most of the lead on Loney’s RBI single and a two-out single by Scott, but Aaron Crow retired Jose Lobaton to escape the seventh inning.
Crow pitched a perfect eighth before Holland wrapped up the win.
“The offense was showing signs they were going to be able to get back in it, and they darn-sure did,” Yost said, “but both Crow and Chen were pivotal for us tonight.”
Notes: RHP Roberto Hernandez starts Thursday’s series finale for Tampa Bay against Royals RHP Ervin Santana, assuming the game gets played. When told of the forecast, Maddon quipped, “That’s not even good football weather.” This is the Rays’ only visit to Kansas City this season, creating some potential scheduling issues if the game is postponed.