KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gatorade? Water? This is Kansas City, buddy.
So Eric Hosmer got a barbecue sauce shower Wednesday afternoon after delivering a walk-off RBI single that produced a pulsating 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in 10 innings at Kauffman Stadium.
“It tasted great,” Hosmer said with remnants still in his hair even after a shower and vigorous toweling.
Of course it did. How could it not?
OK … it was more like a barbecue sauce face rub than a shower. And it burned Hosmer’s eyes, smeared his hair and coated his ears. All courtesy of backup catcher George Kottaras, the Greek god of baptismal celebrations.
“I had to get him on the field,” Kottaras explained. “I couldn’t wait until the interview. Everybody is watching.”
This was worth watching, every bit of it, on the sort of muggy afternoon that hints at what surely and, yes, what just might lie ahead here over the next few months in the Heartland.
Hosmer’s single capped a stunning comeback that included Lorenzo Cain’s two-out homer on an 0-2 count with two outs in the ninth inning against Jose Valverde.
You can’t leave it much later than that.
“Crazy game,” said Cain, who struck out in three previous at-bats against Tigers starter Justin Verlander before delivering in the ninth.
“After having the hat trick and then being able to get a ball of here was huge. I put it on the barrel, but after that, it was either wind or carry. I was blowing for it to go out. And it did.”
Miguel Tejada started the winning rally with a single up the middle against Phil Coke. A sacrifice by Alcides Escobar moved Tejada to second.
Coke (0-4) fell behind Alex Gordon 3-0, fought back to a full count and retired him on a grounder to first that moved Tejada to third.
Hosmer drove a clean single up the middle for the victory. The celebratory scrum surrounded Hosmer between first and second base, and he emerged with a face full of sauce.
“I wish I knew the barbecue sauce was coming,” Hosmer said, “but that’s the division champs over there. That’s the team we want to beat. To take two out of three from them, at home, is a big win for us.”
Greg Holland (2-1) got the victory after pitching a scoreless 10th inning.
Hosmer delivered the game-winner, but Cain’s homer might rank as the Royals’ biggest hit of the year. It not only erased a 2-0 deficit but also an afternoon of depressing offensive malaise.
“(Justin) Verlander being Verlander as usual,” Cain said. “Dominating. You just continue to battle. I got a good pitch up (against Valverde). I put a nice easy swing on it, and it got over the fence.”
The homer snatched a victory away from Verlander, who worked seven scoreless innings, and prevented James Shields from absorbing another tough-luck loss.
“It hurts,” Verlander admitted. “You’ve got two outs and two strikes, and when the ball leaves the yard, it’s not a good feeling. … To lose it that way, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
“Losing, period, sucks. When you lose one that’s so close to a win makes it that much more difficult.”
The victory capped a restorative 7-2 home stand for the Royals after a momentum-crushing May. They also pulled back to within 51/2 games of first-place Detroit in the AL Central Division.
“That’s a great ending,” said Shields, who permitted single runs in the first and fifth innings. “I think we showed them that we’re not going to go away.”
Hosmer opened the ninth with a single through the left side against Drew Smyly, who had worked a scoreless eighth inning after replacing Verlander.
That brought Valverde into the game. He retired Salvy Perez on a fly to right and struck out Billy Butler. Hosmer stole second on Butler’s swinging third strike, but it meant little until Cain connected.
Cain fouled off three straight fastballs before putting a 393-foot charge into a splitter that didn’t.
“It was a pitch I wanted to throw,” Valverde said, “but it was a little hanging, and he did good. He did all right, he tied the game. Nothing you can do.”
When third baseman Miguel Cabrera booted David Lough’s grounder, the Royals had the winning run on base. Detroit manager Jim Leyland responded by calling on Coke to replace Valverde.
Coke had Lough picked off before delivering a pitch to Mike Moustakas, but first baseman Prince Fielder dropped the ball. Lough raced into second. Coke still sent the game to extra innings when Moustakas flied to left.
That only delayed the barbecue celebration.
The rally came too late to help Shields, who lowered his ERA to 2.79 by holding the Tigers to two runs in seven innings. The Royals are averaging 2.97 runs per nine innings while Shields is in the game.
Only Chris Sale, who toils for the White Sox — the league’s poorest-hitting club — gets less support (2.91) among qualifying American League starters.
Shields has been remarkably consistent, too. This was his 12th quality start in 14 outings. He has also allowed two or fewer earned runs in all but one of his last nine starts but is 1-4 with four no-decisions in that span.
“I don’t care,” he insisted. “I don’t care. My main goal is to go to the playoffs and win a World Series, so that’s all I care about. As long as we win a ballgame when I’m in there, that’s all that matters.”
This one came with extra sauce.