Just when it seemed the Royals were tanking their way toward another punchless, disappointing loss Wednesday night, they finally found some offense.
Alcides Escobar pushed the game into extra innings with a two-out, two-run triple in the ninth inning before the Royals pulled out a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Mike Moustakas’ bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning.
It was, literally, the Royals’ first walk-off victory of the season.
Billy Butler started with the winning rally by lining a leadoff single into center against Kameron Loe, who then walked Eric Hosmer before Jeff Francoeur loaded the bases with a soft single into left.
The Brewers brought in José Veras, switched to a five-infielder alignment with three players on the right side — and shortened the entire group in hopes of getting a play at the plate.
Good plan … except Veras couldn’t throw strikes. He walked Moustakas on five pitches.
The victory came after Tim Collins (3-0) invited trouble in the top of the inning by issuing a one-out walk to speedy Carlos Gomez. But Collins retired Ryan Braun on a fly to right before striking out Aramis Ramirez.
The Brewers also had a chance against Greg Holland in the 10th inning after Rickie Weeks lined a one-out single into center. Holland struck out Cody Ransom, but Weeks raced to third on Martin Maldonado’s single into center.
Holland stranded both runners by striking out Edwin Maysonet.
The Royals had never faced Brewers lefty Randy Wolf, a 14-year veteran, prior to Wednesday’s game. He gave up one run in the first inning but nothing more before exiting after the seventh.
They also got nothing against Francisco Rodriguez in the eighth before pulling even in the ninth against Brewers closer John Axford on Escobar’s two-out, two-run triple.
That snatched a victory away from Wolf.
Axford fueled the Royals’ comeback by walking two hitters before Escobar split the gap on a 2-1 fastball. Axford got the game into extra innings by striking out pinch-hitter Clint Robinson.
Royals lefty Jonathan Sánchez required 96 pitches to navigate five innings but surrendered just one run — and a soft one at that — in his first big-league start since May 7. He made three minor-league rehab starts in his recovery from biceps tendinitis.
Sánchez gave up seven hits before handing a 1-1 game to Kelvin Herrera to begin the sixth inning. Herrera protected the tie into the seventh before yielding a two-out RBI single to Braun.
The Brewers added an insurance run in the ninth inning after Norichika Aoki led off with a slicing double into the left-center gap against José Mijares.
That brought Holland into the game to face Gomez, who put down a bunt that died just in front of the plate — and catcher Brayan Peña made a wild throw to first in an attempt to get Gomez.
Aoki scored on the error for a 3-1 lead.
The Royals scored in the first inning after Alex Gordon led off with a double past third base. He moved to third on Yuniesky Betancourt’s grounder to second before scoring on Butler’s grounder to short.
That was their entire offense until the ninth.
Milwaukee pulled even after loading with bases with one out in the third inning on a squib single by Maysonet and bunt singles by Aoki and Gomez.
Sánchez struck out Braun, but Aramis Ramirez’s grounder to deep short turned into an RBI single when Gomez beat Escobar’s throw to second base. Sánchez limited the damage to one run when Corey Hart popped out to right.
The Brewers then ran themselves out of a chance to take the lead after Braun punched a one-out single to right in the fifth. Sánchez sniffed out a stolen-base attempt, and Braun was thrown out on a pitcher-first-second play.
That turned into a big play when Ramirez followed with a double to left. The inning ended when Hart grounded out to third.
The Royals’ best chance between the first and ninth innings came when they tried to score Butler from first base on Francoeur’s two-out double over Braun head in left in the sixth.
But Braun quickly tracked down the ball and made a strong relay to Maysonet, who easily threw out Butler at the plate.
Maysonet then opened the seventh with a sharp single up the middle against Herrera. A sacrifice moved Maysonet to second before he stole third – and how often does this happen to a Royals’ pitcher? – without a throw on Gomez’s swinging third strike.
The steal didn’t really matter when Braun grounded a two-out single up the middle; Maysonet would have scored from second, too. The Brewers led 2-1.