KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Suddenly, the Royals’ bullpen, perhaps their most reliable weapon in recent weeks, is springing leaks after coughing up a two-run lead in the eighth inning Friday for the second night in a row.
The Los Angeles Angels spanked Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Jeremy Jeffress for three runs – all scoring with two outs in the eighth in rallying for a 9-7 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
The loss came one night after Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland and Francisley Bueno let the Minnesota Twins off the hook in a 4-3 loss in 10 innings. The Royals led 3-1 in the eighth inning in that one.
Collins was biggest perpetrator in Friday’s loss. He inherited a 7-5 lead from Crow with two outs and a runner on first. Kendrys Morales tattooed Collins’ first pitch – a first-picth fastball – for a two-run homer.
“I think I just made a rookie mistake,” Collins said. “I went out there and gave him exactly what he wanted. He’s coming off the bench looking for a fastball, and I gave it to him. You see the results. That’s just a mistake you can’t make in that situation.”
That was just the start.
Collins then yielded singles to Mike Trout and Erick Aybar before loading the bases by hitting Albert Pujols with an 0-2 pitch.
“It was a curveball,” Collins said. “I just tried to do too much with it. I thought, after (the homer), I made some good pitches, but they got those base-hits. It’s just one of those nights where everything wasn’t clicking.”
In came Jeffress, which represented a bit of a gamble by manager Ned Yost. Jeffress is a power arm but struggles, on occasion, with his command. Those struggles surfaced here when he forced in the go-ahead run by walking Torii Hunter on five pitches.
“His fastball command has gotten much better,” Yost said. “The problem is he got behind in the count with his breaking ball. His breaking ball is a chase pitch. It’s a strikeout pitch.
“We got behind in the count on his breaking ball instead of getting ahead in the count with his fastball and then going to the breaking ball.”
The Angels led 8-7.
Part of the problem is Yost wanted to stay away from Herrera, who threw 38 pitches over the last two games.
“We’re in September,” Yost said. “I wasn’t going to use him tonight...We thought we had it set up with (Louis) Coleman, Crow, Collins and then Holland. But, again, it didn’t work out.”
It was a crushing loss after the Royals built leads of 3-0, 6-4 and 7-5. They got homers from Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas in the second inning against Angels starter C.J. Wilson.
Jeff Francoeur’s two-run homer capped a three-run sixth against reliever Garrett Richards that pushed the Royals to a 6-4 lead. The teams traded runs in the seventh before the bullpen turtled in the eighth.
The Angels added an insurance run in the ninth inning after center fielder Jason Bourgeois, recalled earlier in the day, dropped Vernon Wells’ leadoff drive for a tough three-base error.
“He ran about a mile-and-a-half to catch that ball,” Yost said. “He gave it a great effort. He just couldn’t hang onto it.”
Jordan Walden, who threw just two pitches, got the victory and improved to 3-2. The Angels used seven pitchers for a victory that pumped some life in to their postseason hopes. Ernesto Frieri worked around a one-out walk in the ninth for his 19th save.
Collins, 5-3, was the loser.
Wilson was a Royals’ killer when he pitched for Texas – never allowing a run in four previous appearances at Kauffman Stadium. The halo, initially, didn’t have the same effect.
The Royals jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on those homers by Butler and Moustakas before adding a run in the third on Bourgeois’ RBI single. Butler’s homer was the 100th of his career.
But Wilson found a groove after the Angels smacked Royals starter Bruce Chen for four runs in the fourth. Wilson had retired nine of 10 before manager Mike Scioscia opted for the bullpen after a leadoff walk in the sixth to Alex Gordon.
Richards got Butler to hit a potential double-play grounder to second, but Howie Kendrick made a poor throw for an error. Everyone was safe. Gordon went to third on Salvy Perez’s fly to deep center.
Moustakas tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left, which stuck Wilson with a no-decision – and a final line showing four runs and four hits in five-plus innings.
Francoeur then put a 401-foot charge into a 96-mph fastball from Richards on a 1-2 pitch. The Royals led 6-4. It was the only hit of the inning, and all three runs were unearned.
Chen went back to the mound in the seventh but exited after Chris Iannetta and Trout hit successive one-out singles. The Royals turned to Coleman, who isn’t often called on to protect late leads.
Aybar pulled a line-hugging RBI double into right, which made it 6-5, and prompted an intentional walk to Pujols to load the bases with one out for Hunter.
Coleman escaped by striking out Hunter on three pitches and Kendrick on four pitches.
The Royals answered with a run in their seventh. Bourgeois reached on a one-out single to deep short, stole second and scored when Alcides Escobar lined a single to left.
Crow replaced Coleman to start the eighth and yielded a one-out single to Mark Trumbo before striking out Alberto Callaspo. When the Angels sent up Morales to bat for Iannetta, the Royals countered by calling Collins.
Not much went right after that.