CLEVELAND — Extended losing streaks, as the Royals long ago learned, take on a life of their own. Sort of like those weeds in your lawn that refuse to die. And, oh, did this one die hard.
The Royals watched their bullpen coughed up a late lead while their attack did virtually nothing before Tony Abreu delivered a two-out RBI single in the 14th inning for the winning run in a 7-6 victory.
Kelvin Herrera then escaped a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the bottom of the inning for his third save and, finally, the Royals could celebrate the end of a six-game skid.
Mike Moustakas opened the 14th inning with a four-pitch walk from lefty Scott Maine, the eighth Indians pitcher. After Jeff Francoeur and Brayan Peña struck out, Moustakas moved to second on a wild pitch.
Abreu then served a single into center that fell in front of a charging Michael Brantley. It was only the Royals’ third hit, all singles, since scoring six runs in the third inning.
Vin Mazzaro (4-3) got the victory by pitching two scoreless innings. Maine (1-2) was the loser.
The Indians didn’t go quietly against Herrera.
Ezequiel Carrera led off with a bunt single when Moustakas fumbled the pickup. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a single to right that moved Carrera to second. Jason Kipnis drew a walk that loaded the bases with no outs.
That was the 12th walk issued by a Royals pitcher.
Herrera retired Carlos Santana on a fly to short left. Even Carrera didn’t challenge Alex Gordon’s arm. Lonnie Chisenhall lined out to right – again not deep enough for Carrera to try for the plate.
That permitted the Royals to drop their infield back to normal depth. Herrera ended the game by retiring Casey Kotchman on a grounder to first.
So ended a 4-hour, 52-minute … victory.
It was a lot harder than it should have been.
The Royals watched their bullpen, perhaps their most-reliable weapon, implode in the late innings with much of the damage resulting from an inability to throw strikes.
Aaron Crow issued two walks in the eighth before Tim Collins yielded a two-run single with two outs to Choo. And Greg Holland walked three hitters in failing to protect a two-run lead in the ninth.
Asdrubal Cabrera tied the game with a two-out, two-run double against Holland.
Then nothing until the 14th.
The Royals built a 6-1 lead by scoring six runs with two outs in the third inning. After that, squat. Just two singles until Abreu’s game-winner.
Here’s how bad it got: Salvy Perez opened the 11th inning by working a walk from reliever Cody Allen. In came Jarrod Dyson as a pinch-runner – and Dyson got picked off before Allen threw his first pitch to Mike Moustakas, who then walked.
Allen retired the next two hitters.
The Indians missed a big chance after Mazzaro started the 12th inning with a four-pitch walk to Kipnis. That was the 11th walk of the game by a Royals pitcher.
Mazzaro retired Santana on a fly to center before Chisenhall grounded a single into center that moved Kipnis to third. Kotchman grounded into a double play.
The victory not only snapped a six-game skid. It permitted the Royals to match last year’s victory total, 71, with four games remaining and clinch third place in the American League Central Division.
That might not sound like much, but … the Royals haven’t finished higher than fourth in the five-team division since a third-place finish in 2003.
The Royals positioned themselves for a skid-snapping victory by scoring six times in the third inning. They did it all with two outs against Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez, who was nursing a 1-0 lead at the time.
Irving Falu singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Alex Gordon walked. Billy Butler delivered an RBI single. Perez loaded the bases with an infield single. Moustakas hit a two-run double. And Jeff Francoeur crushed a three-run homer.
The Royals, at that point, turned their bullpen after weathering two extended innings from rookie right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who threw 65 pitches but yielded just one run.
Nate Adcock and Francisley Bueno nursed the game into the eighth and presented Crow with a 6-2 lead. But the Indians loaded the bases against Crow by sandwiching a single with two walks.
Collins then coughed up a two-run single to Choo but struck out Kipnis with runners at first and third. That got the game to Holland, who blew a save for just the second time in 17 chances since becoming the Royals’ closer.
Holland began the ninth with a four-pitch walk to Santana, who went to second when Chisenhall flicked a single into short left field.
The runners moved into scoring position when Kotchman put down a sacrifice bunt. Pinch-hitter Cord Phelps struck out on three pitches. Holland fell behind 2-0 on Cabrera before working the count full.
Cabrera then served a two-run double into right center. Holland then issued an intentional walk to Brantley before loading the bases with an unintentional walk to Carrera. But Holland got the game to the 10th inning by retiring Choo on a fly to center.
Odorizzi labored through a 42-pitch first inning in his second big-league start, although he surrendered just one run and only one hit – an RBI double by Chisenhall.
When Odorizzi threw 23 more pitches in a scoreless second, the Royals turned to their bullpen with Adcock inheriting a 6-1 lead to start the Cleveland third.
Adcock breezed through three scoreless innings before buckling in the sixth. He hit Travis Hafner with one out and surrendered a two-out single to Thomas Neal. Carrera then hit a sharp hopper back to the mound that Adcock misplayed.
Had Adcock stopped there, the bases would have been loaded. But he rushed a throw to first after retrieving the ball – and threw wildly. One run scored, and the Indians had runners on second and third.
Manager Ned Yost called on Bueno for a left-on-left matchup against Choo. Bueno induced a grounder to first that stranded both runners and extended Bueno’s streak.
Bueno has inherited 14 runners this season. None have scored.
But for the error, Adcock was superb. He yielded two hits in 3 2/3 innings while matching a career high with six strikeouts. Bueno worked a one-two-three seventh before everything started to turn sour.