With an opportunity to be above-average for just the second time this late in the season since 1995 there for the taking, the Royals took a deep breath, took a long look back at their history of irrelevance, and decided they'd go back to where they were more comfortable--sub-.500 baseball.
Heading into the eighth, everything had come up Kansas City. The Royals plated two runs in the third against the Racists' starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez that wouldn't have been possible had Carlos Santana been less himself--or to put it into context for Royals fans, been less like Miguel Olivo and more like Salvador Perez--and gathered two Jimenez wild pitches before runners were able to advance. In the case of Alex Gordon, he actually crossed the plate as Santana searched for the ball that skittered past him. If ever there were a team that was pursuing a loss by way of Kansas City Baseball(tm), it was tonight's Clevelanders.
Those two runs held the lead through the next four innings, as Ervin Santana--who had another fine outing--gave up his only run allowed in the sixth when Mike Aviles drove in Drew Stubbs to narrow the lead to one run.
In the top of the eighth, the Royals got that run back off Cleveland reliever Cody Allen as Hosmer reached third on an Allen throwing error and was immediately driven in by Perez.
Then came the bottom of the eighth and a bullpen meltdown. Kelvin Herrera kicked things off with a lead-off five-pitch walk to the universally-feared Ryan Raburn. Stubbs grounded out to Herrera but advanced Raburn to second. Bourn followed the ground out with a 1 - 2 single on a change-up that he took a defensive stab at and massaged up the third base line for a single, whittling down the Royals lead to 3 - 2. Herrera got up 0 - 2 on Mike Aviles, too, before missing consecutively with 101-MPH pitches up and then in, but Aviles stroked a 100-MPH fastball down the middle to shallow left, putting two on with one out and leading Yost to gesture for the diminutive lefty in the pen.
Tim Collins came in and promptly ceded the lead with a fastball low and away that Kipnis stroked the other way, plating Bourn as the ball caromed off the wall in foul territory and advancing Aviles to third with Kipnis standing just 90 feet behind him. Collins then fed Michael Brantley a 1 - 2 curveball that he left up and was spun around watching David Lough come in to get it but not before Aviles tagged up and scooted past Perez who was just sliding to stop the ball on the grass just in front of home plate.
The three-run eighth was deflating, sure, but the Royals mounted their own offensive against the interim closer for the Racists, Vinnie Pestano. Lough led off with a bouncer up the middle. Mike Moustakas followed with a single on a full-count fastball that he pulled just over Kipnis's leaping glove and into right for his second hit of the night--just his seventh multi-hit game of the season. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Chris Getz sauntered up to the plate looking exceptionally confident (read: this author doesn't recall a situation in which he's seen more doubt showing on the face of a Royals hitter while the Racist battery conferenced on the infield) and squared to bunt twice (retracting and then pop-fouling) before getting way out in front of an 80-MPH slider and whiffing embarrassingly. Escobar then fought off a 2 - 1 fastball outside, singling to right. Of course, David Lough advanced half-way down the third base line before being halted by Royals third base coach Eddie Rodriguez as the throw came into the plate from Drew Stubbs. Lough got caught in a run-down and was eventually tagged out on third as both he and Moustakas stood atop the bag. Lough was allowed to stay at third despite his boner, and eventually Pestano got to pitch around Gordon to load the bases for the Son of God, who promptly channeled the 2012 version of himself and grounded out to the right side of the infield. At least he pulled it.
After the game, Gordon looked pissed in the dugout. His face spoke for the faces of every hopeful Kansas City fan who had to put away their parade supplies as an above-.500 record would not be celebrated at the Plaza when the Royals returned to face the Pale Hoes on Friday.