It wasn’t merely speed Saturday that turned Jarrod Dyson’s soft hopper into a game-winning RBI. The location was perfect, too. Past the pitcher and between the middle infielders — just enough so to prevent a play.
All at the right time. Bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning of a tie game. The Royals will certainly take it — and the 4-3 victory it produced over the Oakland A’s after a day-long uphill climb at Kauffman Stadium.
“I wanted to find a little hole, man,” Dyson said. “I wasn’t trying to go deep. I was just trying to find a hole — ‘get a good pitch you can handle and find a hole.’
“When I chopped it over (pitcher Ryan Cook’s) head, and I saw the shortstop had to go behind second base, I knew he didn’t have a play at second, so I had to hustle down the line.”
Dyson saw it all coming, and we’ll get to that; but, first, let’s reset:
The winning rally started with a break. It was 3-3 with two outs and nobody on base in the eighth inning when shortstop Adam Rosales bobbled a routine grounder by Miguel Tejada.
“I should have made the play,” Rosales said. “That’s going to stick with me for a little while.”
Pinch-runner Alcides Escobar stole second before Cook (1-2) completed a four-pitch walk to Mike Moustakas, who had homered earlier in the game. Another walk, to Elliot Johnson, loaded the bases.
All with two outs, remember.
Dyson then sent a soft chopper up the middle that produced the go-ahead run. Rosales got to the ball behind second base — doing so saved a second run from scoring — but he had no play.
The A’s avoided further problems when Sean Doolittle battled back from a 3-0 hole against Alex Gordon, who already had three walks in his return to the lineup, by getting a borderline strike-three call from Chad Fairchild.
It didn’t matter.
The Royals finally had a lead, and one run was enough for Greg Holland, who struck out the side in the Oakland ninth for his 20th save in 22 opportunities.
Aaron Crow (6-3) got the victory for working a scoreless eighth in relief of Ervin Santana, who allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings. Santana and A’s starter Jarrod Parker each got no-decisions.
“We needed that win,” Holland said. “It’s another tough win. I think we’re learning how to win those games when you’ve just got to grind it out against a good starting pitcher. But we had a good one, too.”
The Royals (41-43) are now 3-2 through what projects as a key 20-game stretch against opponents with winning records. They trailed 2-0 and 3-2 to the A’s before finally grabbing the lead on Dyson’s infield single.
“Right now,” Tejada said, “we’ve got to play every game like it’s the playoffs. If we play every game like that, I think we’re going to have good results.”
The A’s opened the scoring after Santana issued a one-out walk in the second inning to Josh Donaldson, who went to second on a Seth Smith single to right.
Josh Reddick followed with an RBI single into center.
The A’s extended their lead to 2-0 in the third inning after John Jaso poked a one-out single to left, and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a walk.
Santana struck out Brandon Moss, but Donaldson’s high two-out fly into short right fell between three players for an RBI single.
First baseman Eric Hosmer was closest to the ball, after a long run, but appeared to lose it in the sun. It could have been worse; Cespedes probably should have scored from first, but he only got as far as third.
The Royals got one run back in their third after Dyson, who had three of the Royals’ six hits, led off with a single and stole second.
Parker walked Gordon but retired Hosmer on an infield pop before throwing wildly on a pickoff at second. That error permitted the runners to advance, which enabled Dyson to score on Billy Butler’s grounder to third.
Moustakas then pulled the Royals even at 2-2 with a two-out homer in the fourth inning. He turned on a 1-2 change-up and drove it 401 feet into the right-field seats.
But the A’s answered when Donaldson opened the sixth with a 423-foot drive to left field for his 15th homer of the season. It came on a 94-mph fastball from Santana, who had just struck out the side in the fifth.
Oakland threatened to extend its lead in the seventh after Eric Sogard led off with a rulebook double on a ball that hopped the center-field wall.
Sogard tried for third on Coco Crisp’s fly to center, but Dyson made a strong throw for a double play.
“The ball sliced over to the left side,” Dyson said, “so it was a good ball to go to third with. I came up with a bullet. It hopped right to Moose, and he was able to lay a good tag on him.”
The Royals knocked out Parker in the seventh after Johnson snapped a zero-for-21 slide with a single through the right side. When Dyson followed with a walk, Oakland called on reliever Jerry Blevins.
A four-pitch walk to Gordon loaded the bases for Hosmer, whose sacrifice fly to center tied the game. The Royals scored the winning run an inning later.
Now...about that premonition:
“It’s nice to have a good three-hit game,” Dyson said. “I had it in my head (Friday) night when I left here. I told a couple of the guys, ‘I’m getting me three.’”
You buying it? Does it matter?