Start with this: It was hot Saturday, Baghdad hot, which was somehow perversely fitting, it seemed, for the annual Military Appreciation Day at Kauffman Stadium.
So maybe the heat gets credit for what happened — a wild ride that resulted in the Royals first rallying and then holding on for a 9-7 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox jumped to a 3-0 lead on a single run in the first inning and back-to-back homers by Jim Thome and Paul Konerko in the second against Kyle Davies.
The Royals responded with a military-style surge that knocked out Chicago starter Mark Buehrle. Homers by Billy Butler and José Guillen helped push the lead to 8-3 entering the eighth inning.
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That’s when it all nearly fell apart.
Chicago scored four times against usually reliable Ron Mahay and Ramon Ramirez before Joakim Soria stranded the tying run at third base by striking out Juan Uribe after a 12-pitch battle.
Miguel Olivo’s one-out homer in the Royals’ eighth provided a little breathing space for Soria, who pitched around a leadoff walk in the ninth inning for his 31st save.
The Royals finished with a season-high 19 hits, including three apiece by Mike Aviles, Esteban German, Butler and Ross Gload. And, still, they were holding on at the end before securing their fifth victory in six games.
Davies got the victory and improved to 5-2. He steadied into a groove before cramping in both calves forced his exit in the sixth. Horacio Ramirez nursed the 8-3 lead in their eighth before things got interesting.
The game’s start was shifted to 2:55 p.m. _ it started one minute late at 2:56 p.m. — to accommodate Fox television, which broadcast the game on a regional basis to 11 percent of the country. Those who saw it got an eyeful for 3 hours and 1 minute. It only seemed longer.
Buehrle, 8-10, squandered a 3-0 lead by allowing eight runs and 14 hits in just 4 1/3 innings. The loss temporarily dropped the White Sox into a tie with Minnesota for first place in the American League Central Division. The Twins played the Indians on Saturday night.
Mahay carried a 1.75 ERA into game when he replaced Horacio Ramirez to start the eighth. He allowed back-to-back homers to Brian Anderson and Jermaine Dye before departing after Thome’s double.
Ramon Ramirez replaced Mahay and made things worse. Ramirez walked Konerko before yielding an RBI double to Alexei Ramirez.
That quickly, it was 8-6.
Royals manager Trey Hillman called on Soria, who surrendered a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski before outlasting Uribe.
The temperature was 95 degrees with Davies delivered the game’s first pitch to Orlando Cabrera at 2:56 p.m. with a heat index of 111 degrees. The index climbed to 113 degrees by the sixth inning.
Cabrera opened the game with a double into the right-center gap and came around on ground-outs by Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Quentin.
Chicago’s lead climbed to 3-0 when Thome and Konerko opened the second inning with successive homers. Thome’s blast was whopper that caromed off the top of the center message board atop the left-field fountains. Konerko’s homer was a more-routine drive into the left-field bullpen.
Thome has 40 of his 528 career homers against the Royals. The only opponent ever to hit more was Rafael Palmeiro, who had 41 from 1989-2005.
The Royals answered with two runs in their second.
Successive one-out singles by Butler, Alex Gordon and Miguel Olivo loaded the before Gload delivered a sacrifice fly. Mitch Maier followed with an RBI single to left.
Cabrera saved a run by keeping Aviles’ single in the infield, and Buehrle stranded three runners by retiring German on a fielder’s-choice grounder to second.
The Royals kept coming in the third.
Buehrle opened the inning by grazing Mark Teahen with a pitch. Uribe snared Guillen’s line drive to third, but Butler followed with a two-run homer into the left-field bullpen.
The Royals led 4-3.
Butler’s homer was his seventh of the season and fifth in his last 15 games. He also has 17 RBIs in that 15-game span.
The Royals expanded their lead to 6-3 with two more runs in the fourth. Aviles led off with a double and scored on German’s RBI single to right.
Buehrle erased German with a pickoff throw when German broke for second, but Guillen followed with booming homer to left on a hanging curve.
Davies retired 11 in a row after Konerko’s homer before Uribe snapped the string with a two-out single in the fifth.
Buerhle exited after yielding two one-out hits in the fifth. Ehren Wasserman retired Aviles on a liner to third, but German ripped a two-run triple into the left-center gap for an 8-3 lead.