KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Royals finally managed to knock Oakland starter Tommy Milone from the game with one out in the ninth inning Friday night.
Then they had to contend with Grant Balfour.
The Royals tacked on another run before Balfour retired the final two batters with two aboard to preserve a 6-3 victory and earn his 40th straight save, tying Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley’s franchise record.
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“He was throwing it in a shoebox. He was hitting every spot,” the Royals’ Billy Butler said of Milone, who had been battered in his last three starts. “He had a great cutter, just going in and out. He was doing what he needed to do. It was his night. We got to him in the ninth.”
Just a bit too late.
Milone (8-7) was in control before Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer drove in runs to help the Royals close to 6-2. Balfour gave up a run-scoring single to Butler, but the stingy Australian came back to retire Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas and end the game.
It was the 22nd save of the season for Balfour, who stoically downplayed matching the Oakland record for consecutive saves that Eckersley set from Sept. 15, 1991-Aug. 7, 1992.
“You know, it’s an accomplishment. Definitely,” Balfour said. “I don’t like to look into it too much – I’m superstitious, obviously. But I never knew about this, and it’s not something I set out to do. It just happened. I still have a lot of work to do.”
Wade Davis (4-7) rebounded from a miserable start against Minnesota to match Milone much of the night, allowing three runs and six hits in seven innings. Davis struck out eight.
“I thought Wade Davis’s stuff was as good as it’s been all year,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He pitched deep into the ballgame.”
The recent history for Davis and Milone pointed to runs-a-plenty on Friday night. While Davis was coming off a poor start, Milone had been pounded in his last three outings.
So naturally, the two of them took turns mowing through hitters.
Milone retired his first 11 batters, and only twice allowed a ball to get out of the infield through the first three innings. The left-hander finally gave up a single to Hosmer with two outs in the fourth, but that was it until David Lough’s two-out single in the sixth.
It was quite the turnaround from his last three starts, when Milone allowed 14 runs and 21 hits while failing to make it into the seventh inning in games against Texas, Cincinnati and St. Louis – an ugly period that caused his ERA to balloon from 3.61 to 4.17.
“We were just trying to take pitches and try to see as many pitches as possible,” Cain said, “but he was pounding the zone.”
Davis was pounded the zone, too, needing just 10 pitches to complete the first inning. He set down nine straight before Josh Reddick’s double in the third, and Eric Sogard’s timely single to shallow left field gave the scrappy A’s a 1-0 lead.
Davis cruised through the fourth, and then issued a leadoff walk to John Jaso in the fifth. Reddick followed with a triple to right, and he scampered home on Coco Crisp’s sacrifice fly.
The A’s added three more in the ninth, two of them when Cain misplayed a line drive in right field that bounced off his glove – “I just flat-out missed it,” he said.
The Royals tried to rally in the ninth behind back-to-back doubles by Lough and Escobar, and consecutive singles by Hosmer and Butler. But the unflappable Balfour got Cain and Moustakas on harmless groundouts to record his memorable save.
“I hope you’re not jinxing him by talking about it,” Reddick said with a smile.
NOTES: Royals OF Alex Gordon passed his concussion tests after colliding with the wall while trying to make a catch Wednesday night. He could return this weekend. … The Royals requested unconditional release waivers on OF Jeff Francoeur, who was designated for assignment June 30. LHP Francisley Bueno accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Omaha. … A’s LHP Brett Anderson plans to play catch Saturday after a CT scan cleared him to begin walking on his right foot without a boot. He’s been on the DL with a stress fracture since May 1. … RHP Jarrod Parker will start Saturday for Oakland against Royals RHP Ervin Santana.