BALTIMORE — The resurrection of the Kansas City Royals _ at least, what passes for a resurrection for a team with the best record in its league and a double-digit edge in its division _ took place across the sixth and seventh innings of a 14-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
Dormant until then, the Royals transformed a four-run deficit into a seven-run advantage, erasing the bitterness left from the previous night's defeat. In the sixth, Mike Moustakas tied the game with a two-run single and Salvador Perez gave his team the lead with a two-run single of his own.
An inning later, Moustakas crushed a grand slam. In the ninth, Moustakas added a three-run shot to give himself a career-high and franchise-record nine RBIs.
The outburst led to Kansas City's second triumph in their previous eight games. The Royals (84-57) displayed the depth of their lineup and the talent still inherent in their bullpen. Asked to face slugger Chris Davis with the bases loaded in the sixth, Ryan Madson protected a two-run lead by fanning Davis with a changeup.
The strikeout removed stress from the shoulders of Yordano Ventura, who logged 52/3 innings with four runs allowed. He yielded a three-run homer to Adam Jones in the third. Luke Hochevar gave up a two-run homer to outfielder Nolan Reimold in the eighth.
Able to breathe after Madson's one-out cameo, the offense continued chewing up Orioles relievers. Lorenzo Cain contributed an RBI double. With two runners in scoring position, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter elected to intentionally walk Kendrys Morales so lefty T.J. MacFarland could face Moustakas.
Moustakas foiled Showalter's strategy. He clobbered his 17th home run of the season on an 0-2 slider that hung over the plate. He could not match Baltimore's two-slam output from Friday, but the Royals still soaked in the moment. All three runners gathered at the plate to greet Moustakas.
The majority of the roster arrived about 10 minutes past 10 a.m., less than 11 hours removed from the previous night's 10-run pounding in the eighth inning. Holding a two-run lead, Kelvin Herrera gave up a grand slam. Two pitchers and six batters later, Joba Chamberlain gave up another.
The loss would classify as devastating if the standings did not offer such optimism. Kansas City entered the day with a 10-game lead over Minnesota in the American League Central. At this point, a collapse would be essentially a statistical improbability. The website Baseball Prospectus projects the playoff chances of the team at 100 percent.
The Royals were forced to wait to attempt to reverse their recent downward course. As storm cells roamed over the area, rain showers delayed first pitch for three hours and two minutes. The skies stayed gray until the night arrived.
Ventura had stumbled in his last outing, being charged four runs in only 51/3 innings against Minnesota. The hiccup ended a five-start stretch of dominance, when Ventura bullied hitter on the inner half of the plate with his fastball and missed their bats with his changeup and curveball to wrack up strikeouts.
Kansas City sought a similar performance on Saturday. What they received missed the mark, ever so slightly. One fastball to Jones sullied Ventura's line.
The two teams traded runs in the first two frames. Baltimore loaded the bases in the first. In a harbinger of what would come later, third baseman Manny Machado singled and first baseman Chris Davis reached when a curveball hit his foot. After an infield single by Jones, outfielder Gerardo Parra put the Orioles on the board with a sacrifice fly.
Kansas City answered in the top of the next inning. Eric Hosmer walked and reached second on a groundout by Kendrys Morales. A bloop single by Salvador Perez tied the game.
Machado and Davis bested Ventura again in the third. Machado ripped a single into center. Davis took first base when Ventura issued a walk.
Jones came up to bat. Ventura missed, down and away, with a trio of offspeed pitches. He gave Jones a chance with a 3-1 fastball down the middle. Jones fouled it off. He did not miss the next heater, clocked at 96 mph and far enough for Jones to extend his hands and crush it.
Heading into the sixth, the Royals had not answered. They allowed Chris Tillman, a fine pitcher in years past but a man who entered Saturday with a 5.15 ERA in 2015, to suppress them for five innings. Then, at last, they erupted.
The first link in the run-scoring chain was Alex Gordon. Inserted into the leadoff spot on Saturday, he opened the frame with a walk. Ben Zobrist hit a single. Eric Hosmer cut the deficit into two with a single of his own. After Morales walked, Moustakas came to the plate.
In his last week, Moustakas had hit .238. The matchup appeared to favor Baltimore. Showalter had Brian Matusz, a southpaw, on the mound. But Moustakas smacked a fastball back up the middle to even the score. Perez floated an opposite-field hit into right to give Kansas City the lead.
Yost had exhausted his bullpen the night before. So he sent Ventura back to the mound for the bottom of the sixth. He gave up a leadoff single to second baseman Jonathan Schoop and walked shortstop J.J. Hardy. When Ventura hit Machado, he loaded the bases and forced Yost to the mound.
Up was Davis, the left-handed-hitting slugger with 41 home runs this season. Davis entered the game hitting .301 against lefties, so Yost opted for Madson's right arm. Madson conquered Davis in four pitches. Madson spotted a 1-2 changeup, down and away. When Davis swung, his bat only touched the air.