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Royals storm back to walk-off Rays 9-8

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That was a roller coaster of emotions.

Tampa Bay Rays v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Royals salvaged the series finale against Tampa Bay, 9-8, on Wednesday night. With the win, Kansas City finishes the 10-game homestand with a winning record of 6-4.

As they’d done in the previous two games, the Royals dug themselves into a serious hole. In the top of the first with Jakob Junis making his third start of the season, Tampa Bay tagged him for four runs. Joey Wendle doubled in a run, Brandon Lowe crushed a two-run homer, and Francisco Mejia doubled in the fourth run.

Facing a large deficit early, Kansas City began chipping away off Rays starter Michael Wacha. In the home half of the second, Hunter Dozier belted his first home run of the season into the left field bullpen. Two innings later, Jorge Soler bashed his first home run since Opening Day to make it a 4-3 game.

Following three scoreless innings, Tampa Bay scratched across its fifth run, which stemmed from an unorthodox play. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Yoshi Tsutsugo poked a soft fly ball to Andrew Benintendi in left field. When the ball dropped, Benintendi attempted to throw out Brett Phillips on a force play, but he wildly overthrew Hunter Dozier. As the ball skipped to the backstop, Phillips tried to score from third. However, Salvador Perez calmly picked up the ball and flipped to Junis, who cut down Phillips at the plate. On the next at-bat, though, Wendle drove in a run on a sacrifice fly.

Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, the Royals had one of the unluckiest innings in recent memory. The frame started off with Carlos Santana roping a 103.6 mph shot to the wall in right field, but it was run down by a leaping Phillips. In the ensuing at-bat, Perez smoked one 107.1 mph to the right field wall. However, the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back in. To make matters worse, Perez thought the ball went over and started his home run trot. He was tagged out in between first and second.

Two unlucky outs should be enough, right? Wrong.

Soler became the third victim of the inning when he laced a ball 103.6 mph to left field. This ball, like Perez’s, hit the top of the wall and bounced back in. To pour salt in the wound, the inning ended on a diving stop from Wendle at third base.

After Tampa Bay extended its lead to 6-3, the Royals made up for not coming through in the sixth. Andrew Benintendi led off with a single, Michael A. Taylor walked, and Hanser Alberto came through with a pinch-hit RBI-double — scoring both runners.

If things couldn’t get more electric, Santana slugged a two-out, go-ahead, two-run bomb to right field. It was his second in as many days.

The Rays, however, struck back and tied the game on a pinch-hit, RBI-double by Randy Arozarena in the top of the eighth. They reclaimed the lead in the ninth on another RBI-double by Wendle.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Royals used some devil magic that made fans feel nostalgic. Taylor started the inning with a bloop single to right field (same spot as Josh Willingham’s pinch-hit single in the 2014 Wild Card). Dyson entered the game and immediately swiped second base. Alberto bunted him over to third, bringing up Nicky Lopez with one out. With the infield drawn in, Lopez perfected a safety squeeze to score Dyson — tying things up at 8.

A few batters later, Perez came up with runners at first and second with two outs. On a 2-1 slider, Perez ripped a single passed a diving Wendle for a walk-off winner. Sound familiar?

Kansas City (10-7) has an off-day tomorrow before beginning a nine-game road trip, which starts in Detroit. Mike Minor will face off with Casey Mize on Friday. First pitch is slated for 6:10 p.m. CT.