Royals relinquish early lead, can't cap late rally
By Jeffrey Flanagan and Alaina Getzenberg
ST. LOUIS -- After a sloppy start, Thursday's Royals-Cardinals game turned into a tense, one-big-clutch-hit-after-another affair until the Cardinals' bullpen finally calmed matters late in an 8-6 win.
The Cardinals overcame a 3-0 deficit and took the lead with their second grand slam in as many nights, this one by Dexter Fowler in the seventh that appeared to punch a huge hole in the game at 7-3. Not so fast. The Royals nearly answered when pinch-hitter and former Cardinal Brandon Moss narrowly missed a game-tying grand slam in the eighth, settling for a two-run double instead.
"It missed by about six inches," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It hit right on that pad."
But the Cardinals escaped as Trevor Rosenthal ended the eighth-inning threat and recorded a four-out save in a wild win over the slumping Royals. St. Louis, which has won six straight and swept the four-game, home-and-home series with Kansas City, pulled within one game of the first-place Cubs in the National League Central.
Fowler's slam, which came off reliever Neftali Feliz, marked the first time in Cards history they have hit go-ahead slams in consecutive games. It was also the first time St. Louis hit grand slams in back-to-back games since Jake Westbrook and Albert Pujols did it on Aug. 31/Sept. 1, 2011.
"Right now, we've just got to get our bullpen back on track," Yost said.
The Royals, who have lost nine of 11, remained four games behind the first-place Indians in the American League Central and are one behind the Mariners and Rays for the second AL Wild Card. It was the first season-series sweep between the Cardinals and Royals in 13 years.
"It was awesome [to get the sweep]; that's a great team over there," Fowler said. "They were doing well as well. ... To come in there and take four from them is awesome."
Lorenzo Cain had four hits for the Royals, and his one out on the night just missed being a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth. It wound up a deep flyout into the right-field corner.
"I was hoping it would at least get down," Cain said. "I thought I hit it pretty good. I had one like that in Boston, so you never know. I thought it might go out. Hoping."
Royals starter Jason Hammel threw five scoreless innings before finding trouble in the sixth; he gave up two runs in five-plus innings while striking out seven.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn wobbled through six innings, giving up six hits, five walks and three runs (two earned), with little defensive support while he was on the mound.
"In the second there, with Lance limiting the damage, that could have gone really bad in a hurry," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "[Lynn] made some good pitches and kept us in that game without getting all the help that he would normally get."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Shaky defense, part I: The Cardinals gave the Royals an unearned run in the second, and they handed them two more freebies in the fifth. With two out, Cain singled to left and Eric Hosmer walked. Melky Cabrera then hit a flyball to right that baffled Cardinals right fielder Jose Martinez, who muffed the catch. Cain and Hosmer scored easily, and Cabrera wound up at third. It was a ruled a two-run triple.
Shaky defense, part II: The Royals had their own issues with defense, committing three errors on the night. A big one came in the sixth when the Cardinals wiped out a 3-0 deficit. Fowler ripped an RBI double to chase Hammel, bringing on Peter Moylan to face Yadier Molina, who hit the winning grand slam off the reliever on Wednesday. This time, Molina singled on an 0-2 pitch, sending Fowler to third. Martinez then hit a potential double-play ball to Moylan, who promptly sailed his throw into center field, allowing Fowler to score. Moments later, Kolten Wong's sacrifice fly tied it.
"First and third, he caught the ball, looked him back and just hurried his throw," Yost said of Moylan. "He never got lined up to second base."
"I think he looks pretty good there. He's been good. This is a guy that came in here thinking he was going to be hitting in the leadoff spot all season long, and I think he's one of the ones who's bought into not putting so much ownership into any particular spot and putting together his best at-bats no matter where he is." -- Matheny, on Fowler's success hitting cleanup
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The Cardinals have scored eight runs or more in five straight games for the first time since April 11-16, 2011.
One of Cain's four hits was a line drive that deflected off Lynn's head in the third inning. The ball, which had an exit velocity of 105 mph, according to Statcast™, hit off the top left side of the righty's head and knocked his hat off. After being checked out by the Cardinals' training staff, Lynn remained in the game.
"Everything so far with the medical team is positive; you just never like to see that happen, but he responded well," Matheny said. "It didn't catch him so square. ... It's still scary, something we take our time with and make sure that he can answer the questions that need to be answered and pass the tests that our medical team needed to see."
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (7-7, 3.48 ERA) takes the mound Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT as the Royals open a three-game series with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Duffy gave up seven runs (three earned) over 5 2/3 innings Sunday against Seattle.
Cardinals:Adam Wainwright (11-5, 5.00 ERA) will make his second start off the 10-day DL as the Cardinals continue their five-game homestand against the Braves on Friday at 7:15 p.m. CT. The right-hander lasted just three innings in his previous start, throwing 88 pitches and giving up a career-high five walks.