What’s that classic Monty Python line? Not dead yet! Who knows? But there are times, like Wednesday’s dramatic 4-3 victory over Baltimore when the Royals, even now, make you want to believe.
Alcides Escobar rocked a one-out, walk-off double in the ninth inning that Nate McLouth couldn’t quite reach at the left-field wall. David Lough scored from first base after initially holding up near second.
“When I hit it,” Escobar said, “I said, ‘It’s got a chance.’ I hit that ball good, but I wasn’t 100 percent (certain). I was saying, ‘Come on, come on ball.’
“When I saw (McLouth) going back and not catch it, I said, ‘Now, D-Lough, you can run.’”
It was amazing stuff.
Eric Hosmer hit two home runs against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, including a two-run bomb in the eighth inning that erased a 3-1 deficit. That came after an error earlier in the game that led to two unearned runs.
“He’s a good lefty,” Hosmer said, “but the reports say he threw a lot of fastballs. I think it was around 70 percent. The approach for me tonight was not to miss a fastball. Fortunately, I got two.”
So here are the Royals, at 47-51, still clinging to the edge of postseason contention after winning for the fourth time in six games since returning from the All-Star break against two of last year’s postseason teams.
“We know what we’re capable of doing here,” Lough said. “We took the series from Detroit, and if we can take the (four-game) series from Baltimore, I think that’s making a statement.”
Lough started the winning rally by lining a one-out grounder past submarining reliever Darren O’Day (5-1) that struck second base and caromed into short left-center field for a single.
Escobar then drove O’Day’s next pitch to deep left. Initially, it appeared it might leave the park. Then it seemed McLouth might make the catch at the wall.
When the ball struck the wall and skipped away from McLouth, Lough raced around the bases. That triggered a full-squad sprint from the Royals’ dugout for a celebratory scrum with Escobar near second base.
“I made one bad pitch,” O’Day said, “but that’s the nature of relief pitching.”
Luke Hochevar (3-1) got the victory after pitching around a two-out single by Henry Urrutia in the top of the ninth. Hochevar replaced Ervin Santana, who permitted one earned run (three in all) over eight innings.
“(Santana) is able to throw three pitches for strikes,” McLouth said, “and his slider is one of the best. He’s throwing low-to-mid ’90s, too, and he doesn’t walk anybody. The combination of those things can be pretty tough.”
The Orioles led 2-1 when they started the eighth against Santana with singles by Brian Roberts and McLouth. A Manny Machado sacrifice moved the runners to second and third with one out for the middle of the order.
The Royals opted for an intentional walk to Nick Markakis to load the bases for Adam Jones — and got the ground ball they desired, but it was in the hole at short. The Royals settled for a force at second.
Baltimore led 3-1, but the Royals pulled even later in the inning after Lorenzo Cain lined a one-out single to right and Hosmer followed with a no-doubt drive to right-center for his second homer of the game.
“The way Erv was pitching,” Hosmer said, “and after the tough error, on a do-or-die play, I was thinking I’ve just got to get Cain in somehow. Anything after that is a bonus. The ball just kept taking off.”
It was Hosmer’s third career two-homer game, and it finished Chen, who settled for a no-decision after yielding three runs and seven hits in 71/3 innings.
In came O’Day, who struck out Billy Butler and retired Salvy Perez on a soft liner to second.
Hosmer’s second homer also took Santana off the hook for a loss after he lowered his ERA to 3.06. He has allowed one earned run in 151/3 innings in two starts since the All-Star break and is increasingly cited in trade rumors.
Santana appears unbothered by any of it; he even tweeted out a humorous video Tuesday night about those rumors with the help of Cain and catcher Salvy Perez.
“I just come here every day to play baseball,” Santana said. “I don’t know what going on outside of the baseball, so I just enjoy the time.”
The Royals opened the scoring on Hosmer’s first homer — a 407-foot drive with one out in the first inning that landed in the seats beyond the Orioles’ bullpen in right field.
It stayed 1-0 until the fourth when Hosmer couldn’t handle a tough short-hop grounder by Jones with one out. Santana struck out Chris Davis, but Matt Wieters followed with a two-run homer to right.
Both runs were unearned.
“After he made that error,” Santana said, “he said, ‘My bad, man.’ I told him, `Don’t worry about it.’”