OAKLAND, Calif. — First, Cam Gallagher focused on drawing a walk when he got the count to 3-0. Then, upon making contact, he thought the ball might hook foul.
It stayed right on line, and the Royals rookie had his first career home run in grand style.
Gallagher hit a grand slam for just his second big league hit, leading Kansas City past the Oakland Athletics 6-2 on Monday night.
Gallagher’s shot into the left-field seats in the sixth inning marked the first grand slam by a Royals rookie since Paulo Orlando connected in the first game of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay on July 7, 2015.
Kansas City’s catchers sure have been handling the daunting role of filling in for injured star Salvador Perez — and it was Perez who helped make sure Gallagher received the souvenir ball for framing and a spot in his trophy case.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” Gallagher said. “When I get back tonight, laying in my hotel bed, I’m going to start thinking about it and it’s going to set in a little bit. It’s definitely nice to get the win tonight. We’re in a playoff push and honestly that’s the most important part.”
Jake Junis (5-2), recalled for his seventh stint with Kansas City this season and a teammate of Gallagher’s for five years now, allowed two runs and four hits in six innings with two strikeouts and no walks. After the grand slam, Junis told good friend Gallagher he would do his part to shut down the A’s.
“I could tell on his 3-1 swing, he took a hack,” Junis said. “He was ready.”
The Royals moved into a second-place tie with the idle Twins, five games back of AL Central-leading Cleveland.
Alcides Escobar singled to load the bases in the sixth, and is 10 for 21 since an 0-for-21 stretch.
Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain robbed Boog Powell of a likely extra-base hit in the third with a great catch crashing into the wall.
Whit Merrifield hit an infield single to begin the game against A’s starter Jharel Cotton (5-10) and then stole his 20th base.
Cotton came off the disabled list July 30 from a right thumb blister and has an 8.71 ERA in four starts since. His winless stretch reached five starts and he is 0-3 since a victory at the White Sox on June 23.
The right-hander was tagged for six runs and eight hits in six innings. He dropped to 1-7 in nine night starts and 2-6 in 10 home outings.
A’s manager Bob Melvin didn’t commit on whether Cotton might need a break from the rotation.
“I want to go out there every five days, and pitch for my team,” Cotton said. “I think I’ll get out of this funk just by pitching. That’s all I can do.”
Gallagher’s grand slam earned Tim Brown of Shawnee, Kansas, $25,000 as part of the “Sonic Slam” inning promotion.
The next inning, catcher Drew Butera informed Gallagher.
“I thought he was joking at first,” Gallagher said. “I’m happy for that guy.”
Oakland drew just 9,848 fans to the Coliseum for its second-smallest crowd of the season behind a July 17 game against Tampa Bay that attracted 9,736.
Royals: Perez, on the disabled list since Aug. 5 with a strained muscle on the right side of his ribcage, caught a bullpen and also hit off a tee for 10-15 swings at what he estimated was 30 to 40 percent effort and had no pain. “I feel pretty good,” Perez said about his first tee session. “The worst part of this thing is hitting.” Perez won’t predict a timetable for his return, saying: “I don’t want to get hurt again. If I get hurt again I think I’m done for the season. I have to be smart.”
Athletics: C Josh Phegley is scheduled to travel Tuesday and play Wednesday for Triple-A Nashville at Tacoma in a rehab game as he returns from a strained left oblique that landed him on the disabled list July 25. … RHP Bobby Wahl underwent thoracic outlet surgery to alleviate shoulder problems. The procedure was done in Dallas, and Wahl is scheduled to return to Oakland on Thursday and begin rehabbing.
Royals: RHP Jason Hammel (5-9, 4.68 ERA), who spent the second half of the 2014 season with Oakland, has allowed three or fewer runs in seven straight starts with just one win to show for it. He has a two-start winless stretch and just one victory in his last six outings.
Athletics: RHP Chris Smith (0-2, 5.29) makes his seventh appearance and sixth career start still searching for his first victory since one win with Boston in 2008.