Moose, Duffy come through in the clutch to help Royals top Astros

Mike Moustakas slammed the game-winning home run for the Royals in the 11th inning Wednesday night in Houston.

Troy Taormina/Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

OK, so it’s only mid-April, and we’re not going to do the freak-out panic thing that most Royals fans have been doing in the first two weeks.

On the other hand, this was a terrific come-from-behind win, even if it was against the lowly Astros.

This was a win and a game that could give a big boost to struggling hitters such as Mike Moustakas, who slammed the game-winning home run, and Billy Butler, who snapped a 0-for-19 slump with a single.

And let’s not forget Danny Duffy, who authored two fabulous innings of relief to keep the Royals alive as they came back for a 6-4 win in 11 innings over Houston.

3 UP

— The Moose is loose again. Ok, we simply have to hand it to Moustakas, who rescued a pathetic offense by slamming a home run in the top of the 11th inning to give the Royals a 5-4 lead. While some of the fan base and all of the sports-radio talkers already have dismissed Moose this season, the truth is he has been swinging the bat well the past few days. He had three hits in Minnesota, including two doubles he drilled off the center-field wall. And, of course, he homered in Houston.

— Danny to the rescue. I have to admit, I don’t like that manager Ned Yost uses the traditional approach to road games by not inserting his closer in the bottom of the ninth or 10th if he doesn’t have the lead. My feeling is that you play extra innings in baseball like you play the NCAA tournament — survive and advance. In other words, play your best players no matter the situation and try to extend the game. Fortunately for Ned, Duffy was beyond brilliant in two innings of relief in the ninth and 10th. In the bottom of the ninth, Duffy gave up a leadoff hit — a jam shot that blooped into right field — but got out of it by striking out two of the next three hitters and getting a groundout in between. In the 10th, Duffy gave up a leadoff single, got a strikeout, picked off the runner at first on a great step-back move, gave up a walk, then struck out L.J. Hoes on two terrific curves and a 98-mph fastball.

— The other heroes. Sal Perez came up with a big two-run single to tie the score at 4-4, and let’s not forget the job Kelvin Herrera did in the eighth. He came in throwing gas, getting two strikeouts while throwing 99-mph fastballs. The Royals need Herrera to be the pitcher he was two years ago, and this was a positive sign. Also, closer Greg Holland struggled with his command but worked through the bottom of the 11th to get the save. Gutsy effort.

3 DOWN

— That’s not how we play. Thumbs down to Danny Valencia, who muffed an easy ground ball in the bottom of seventh at third base. The error didn’t cost the Royals, but Valencia has to learn that it is not the way the Royals play — they win with solid and, at times, great defense. Valencia, who did come up with a big home run, has played for four teams now in his short career and he better learn quickly that the Royals don’t tolerate soft defense. This is a team that plays every defensive play like it’s the bottom of the ninth in the World Series. The same scolding goes for Jarrod Dyson, who booted a routine single to center in the 10th that allowed the Astros to get the winning run to third base. Fortunately for Dyson, the Royals survived that miscue.

— The DP blues. Royals fans always get on Butler for hitting into double plays, but the issue is far bigger than just with Billy. Perez killed two rallies Wednesday by rolling into 6-4-3 double plays in his first two at-bats. The Royals have rolled into 14 double plays now — only the Red Sox have hit into more in the American League. The Royals simply must be more selective at the plate with runners on base.

— Looking for the clutch hit. The Royals entered the game hitting just .198 with runners in scoring position. And they were just 1 for 10 with RISP on Wednesday. At some point, this team must start delivering in the clutch, or it’s just going to be a repeat of last season, when the Royals wasted great starting pitching, great defense and a solid bullpen by being inept offensively.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.