Daring baserunning by Willie Bloomquist gave the Royals a 10-9 victory over the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Bloomquist, a pinch-runner, stole third base and then scored the game-ending run on a wild pitch.
"You try to find ways to win a ballgame and sometimes, you've got to be a little bold to do it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You can't be afraid to try to win a ballgame."
Wilson Betemit opened the Royals' ninth with a double off left-hander Darren Oliver and Bloomquist ran for him. Kila Ka'aihue wanted to move him over with a ball to the right side but struck out. Now Bloomquist had the green light from Yost to steal second.
"I don't give him a 'must-go,' " Yost said. "I've got enough confidence in Willie to pick a pitch, to know when he has a jump . . . [with the] liberty to steal the bag."
Brayan Pena walked on four pitches before Bloomquist boldly stole third base on a 2-2 pitch to Alex Gordon, just beating catcher Matt Treanor's throw.
"It was a calculated risk but it was one that, in that situation, I felt pretty confident in taking and it worked out," Bloomquist said.
Gordon took that pitch for ball three but then struck out and Alexi Ogando, a rookie right-hander, took over for Oliver. On a 3-0 pitch to Yuniesky Betancourt, Ogando bounced ball four past Treanor.
Bloomquist bolted to the plate.
"You've got to read it and make sure it got past him," Bloomquist said. "On the second pitch, he made an unbelievable play to pick that ball out of the dirt. So the main thing is to make sure it gets past him before you take the chance to do it."
The ball bounced off the backstop to Treanor, who got off a throw to Ogando covering the plate but Bloomquist slid in safely.
"That's my game," Treanor said. "That's what I take pride in, my defense. Not that I don't take pride in the rest of my game but I feel I should make that play. I should have caught the ball."
The Royals converged joyously on Bloomquist around the plate. Among them was closer Joakim Soria, who set up the finish by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
"It was nice to see Jack come in and get through the inning and get his first win of the year," Yost said.
It was just the Royals' second victory in eight games against Texas this season and came after six innings of heavy slugging.
"You certainly wouldn't anticipate it was going to be a walk-off wild pitch, the way the bats were being swung tonight," Bloomquist said. "Their guys hit a few bolts that I don't think have landed yet and we swung the bats exceptionally well, too. So for it to end on a walk-off wild pitch was kind of crazy. But this game's a crazy game."
Home runs have been a tad troublesome for Sean O'Sullivan since he joined the Royals from the Los Angeles Angels. In six previous starts, he'd given up six homers. The Rangers added three to that total.
Michael Young banged his 20th, a solo shot, in the first inning. David Murphy led off the fourth inning with his ninth. And Vladimir Guerrero launched a two-run monster in the fifth. That drive did a splashdown in the left-field fountains, 432 feet from the plate. Not that the others were chinkers -- Young's went 406 feet and Murphy's 414 feet.
In contrast, Betancourt's second-inning homer off Rangers left-hander Cliff Lee barely made it into the stands just inside the right-field pole, a mere 336 feet. That was the Royals' first run.
But they'd get six more against Lee and oust him from the game in the fifth inning. Guerrero's 25th blast gave Lee a 6-4 lead but it vanished almost immediately. In fact, by the time the Royals were finished with Lee and reliever Matt Harrison, they'd put together a five-run inning for a 9-6 lead.
All the runs scored after two outs and featured two-run doubles by Gordon and Jai Miller, an error by Harrison and Mike Aviles' RBI single.
"Everybody knows that Cliff Lee is one of the best pitchers in the big leagues but we showed that we can bounce back and these guys did a great job," Pena said.
With that, O'Sullivan yielded the mound to Jesse Chavez who, staying in theme, gave up a solo homer (401 feet, if you're counting) to Mitch Moreland. And three straight doubles later -- by Elvis Andrus, Young and Josh Hamilton -- darned if the score wasn't tied, 9-9.
That removed Lee from a possible loss so he remains 2-5 in 11 starts since being obtained from Seattle. Three of the seven runs against him were unearned, result of his own throwing error in the third.
And, in the end, it was another errant toss by Ogando that decided the outcome.
"Once it got past him, I was taking my chances with two outs there and that guy throwing 100 [mph]," Bloomquist said. "That's what I was waiting on."
So the night's unlikely hero turned out to be, of all things, a pinch-runner.
"All in a night's work, I guess," Bloomquist said, laughing.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.