Christmas in July, huh?
David DeJesus provided the Royals with their first walk-off homer in more than three years Saturday night by rocketing a two-run shot into the right-field bullpen for a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
DeJesus’ homer was his ninth of the year and came on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Brandon Morrow. It sent the crowd of 23,792 — many of them clad in the night’s promotional giveaway of red-and-white stocking caps — into a frenzy.
It was the Royals’ first walk-off homer since Alberto Castillo produced a 6-5 victory over the Cleveland Indians on April 19, 2005.
The Royals were down to their last out after Morrow retired the first two hitters in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Billy Butler then worked a walk before Joey Gathright entered the game as a pinch-runner.
DeJesus’ homer also matched a career high.
It was a remarkable reversal after the Royals appeared headed toward a disappointing loss after blowing a three-run lead.
Horacio Ramirez, 1-0, got the victory against his former club by retiring seven straight hitters in relief of Gil Meche. Morrow, 1-2, was the loser and suffered his second blown save in 10 opportunities.
DeJesus’ homer even overshadowed Mark Grudzielanek, who had two early singles and reached the 2,000-hit plateau.
Meche carried a four-hit shutout into the sixth before everything soured in a four-run burst. The Mariners bunched five hits, including a two-run homer by ex-Royal Raul Ibanez and a two-run double by Jeremy Reed.
The Royals didn’t get a runner as far as second base after the second inning until DeJesus’ homer.
Morrow’s blown save snatched a victory from Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn, who weathered a 39-pitch first inning. He trailed 3-0 deficit after two before finding his form and retiring 14 of his last 16 hitters in his six innings.
Sean Green and Arthur Rhodes protected the one-run lead through the eighth.
Ichiro Suzuki opened the Seattle sixth with a single to center. Ibanez trimmed the lead to 3-2 by rocking a one-out homer, a 419-foot blast, into the Royals’ bullpen beyond the right-field wall.
Singles by Jose Vidro and Adrian Beltre, still with one out, put runners at first and second. Reed then sliced a two-run double into the left-field corner that gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead. Reed took third on the throw home and tried to score when the ball got past Buck.
Meche retrieved the ball and threw to plate in time to get Reed.
The Mariners seemed to have all they needed, though.
Grudzielanek had a single in the first that gave the Royals a 1-0 lead. His second single came while leading off the third and prompted a standing ovation from the crowd.
Grudzielanek is the 251st player in history to reach 2,000 and joins 17 other active players. He is the sixth player to collect his 2,000th hit in a Royals uniform. The others were George Brett, Hal McRae, Amos Otis, Lee May and Frank White.
The Royals scored twice in the first inning after cashing a throwing error by Vidro on DeJesus’ leadoff grounder to first. DeJesus went to second on Mike Aviles’ single and to third on Mark Teahen’s fielder’s-choice grounder before scoring on Grudzielanek’s two-out single.
That was career hit No. 1,999.
Alex Gordon followed with a bloop single to left for a 2-0 lead. It was just the fourth hit for Gordon in his last 30 at-bats.
Washburn finally concluded the inning by retiring John Buck on a pop to second.
The Royals extended their lead to 3-0 in the second but missed the chance for a big inning after loading the bases with one out. Teahen got an RBI on a grounder to first, but Jose Guillen stranded two runners on a fly to center.