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Royals Win Thriller in Quantraro’s Return to the Trop


By: Joey Johnston, Kansas City Royals


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ( – In a season of mostly forgettable results, the Royals had a victory to remember Thursday night at Tropicana Field.

Against the Rays, the best team in baseball and a near-unstoppable force at home, Kansas City came from behind twice, tacking on the game-winning run in the ninth inning and prevailing, 6-5.

“That was a complete effort, and every single person did something,’’ said Royals manager Matt Quatraro, who enjoyed a happy homecoming after spending the previous five seasons on the Rays’ coaching staff. “Regardless of where we win a game, it feels good. These guys have endured a lot this year as far as tough losses. So I feel really good for them that they were able to persevere and come out on top.’’

Locked in a 5-5 game in the ninth inning, Maikel Garcia led off with a walk against Rays closer Pete Fairbanks. Garcia then stole second and third, using a tip from Royals bench coach Paul Hoover, another former Rays coach, who said Fairbanks was generally slow to the plate.

Fairbanks nearly escaped, striking out the next two batters, but MJ Melendez‘s slow chopper down the first-base line proved troublesome for the Rays. Melendez flew down the line and dove headfirst into the base as it was fielded cleanly by Yandy Díaz, whose quick flip froze in the air but fell behind a fast-rushing Fairbanks behind a fast-rushing Fairbanks trying to cover the base.

Garcia scored on what was ruled a two-out RBI single by Melendez.

“After I slid, I didn’t even know if I was safe or out,’’ Melendez said. “I was just running as fast as I could. Obviously, we haven’t had the best luck at times. We haven’t gotten shutdown innings when we needed them, or we haven’t scored the runs late in games when we needed to. But it feels good to win it like this, when so many people had huge contributions.’’

It was a night for the Royals’ bullpen, including Aroldis Chapman, who struck out the side in the eighth inning, and closer Scott Barlow, the seventh Royals pitcher used, who struck out Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes with the tying run on first base in the ninth.

“Just executing pitches, not trying to be too perfect and figuring out a way to hold that lead, which has given us some trouble,’’ said Barlow, referring to the MLB-leading 27 blown leads.

It was a night for center fielder Drew Waters, who gave the Royals a 3-2 lead on a solo homer in the seventh, then tied it 5-5 on a two-out, two-strike, two-run single off Jason Adam in the eighth. Before his clutch game, Waters entered Thursday 3-for-31 in his past 11 games. He went 2-for-4, which was his first multihit game since his first game of the year on May 26.

“I’ve been hitting some balls hard, but not getting the results,’’ Waters said. “It was satisfying personally and as a team. We showed what we were capable of and where we’re headed.’’

And it was a night for rookie left-hander Austin Cox, who entered the second trailing 2-0. Cox continued his mastery by facing 11 batters without surrendering a hit, giving him the most batters faced (39) without giving up a hit to start a career since 1900 (according to Elias).

“Whatever I can do to help us win, that’s always my approach, but there were pieces of that all through our team tonight,’’ Cox said. “We came from behind. We held them down. MJ was diving headfirst with the go-ahead hit. I think it all exemplifies what’s to come with this team.’’