Mark Teahen hit a dramatic inside-the-park homer in the ninth inning that pulled the Royals from the brink of defeat and tied the Minnesota Twins. This seemed like the push the Royals needed, at long last.
Nope. The Twins rebounded to win, 4-3, in 12 innings on Tuesday night and extended the Royals' skid of losses of nine.
"You catch a break like that and you think it can turn the tide for you and we just didn't finish the job," Teahen said.
Twins rookie right-hander Nick Blackburn had burned the Royals for eight innings and held a 3-0 lead. Manager Ron Gardenhire let him try for a complete-game shutout. But Blackhurn hit Alex Gordon with a pitch and, after an out, Miguel Olivo singled.
Out of the Twins' bullpen came closer Joe Nathan, who had blown just two saves in 30 previous chances against the Royals in his career. He made one pitch to Teahen, who launched a twisting line drive down the left-field line.
"I felt good out there," Nathan said. "I felt like I was making pitches and it was just a first-pitch, lazy fly ball. He just happened to put it in a good spot."
Delmon Young raced over and leaped at the ball.
"I guess I placed it right. Just putting Nathan in play is a tough at-bat," said Teahen, who was 0-for-7 against Nathan previously.
"I hit a couple of balls like that against St. Louis here last year, so I thought I had a shot at it. Run hard out of the box and see what happens."
What happened was that the ball got away from Young and rolled into the corner. Gordon and Olivo were followed across the plate by a diving Teahen.
"I was running down the line and I thought I got in foul territory and I just gave it a shot," Young said. "But in that situation I should just play the ball on the hop and play it back in with the closer on the mound."
Gardenhire said Young just made a mistake.
"He was trying to make a play but there's no way you can leave your feet there and let everybody run around the bases," Gardenhire said. "It's not one of those iffy plays. We were playing deep - no doubles -- and we turn it into three runs. I said I'd never seen that before and I hope I never see it again."
The Royals had caught up. But they couldn't go ahead.
Royals closer Joakim Soria shut out the Twins in the 10th and 11th innings. But manager Trey Hillman wasn't about to let him go three innings. His highly prized right-hander had already thrown 31 pitches and that was more than enough.
"I think that would not only be desperation but a really dumb move on my part," Hillman said.
Leo Nunez took the mound in the 12th and got an out, but then walked Joe Mauer and gave up successive singles to Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. Mauer crossed the plate with the deciding run.
The Twins' first three runs came against Royals starter Brian Bannister. He went just five innings and, oddly enough, threw the same number of pitches (111) and strikes (72) that he did in a complete-game victory over the Twins on April 13.
"I was honestly trying to take the approach that if a runner got on base, he can't score," Bannister said. "And that's what leads to a [high] pitch count. I usually pitch to contact. I was honestly trying to make perfect pitches all night long because I didn't want them to take an early lead and take the wind out of our sails."
He wanted to avoid home runs but the Twins managed to nudge across two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth.
"I had the opportunity last time we had a streak to end it and I did it by throwing a shutout," said Bannister, who stopped a three-game spin with a 4-0 win over Baltimore on May 11. "I had the same goal tonight."
This time, though, the skid screeched on.
"People like playing us right now and they should because we haven't made enough of our own breaks and we're not patient enough at the plate," Hillman said.
"I'm not going to sit here and sugar-coat it, it's frustrating."
This is the seventh time in the Royals' 40-year history that they've lost nine straight games.
"I don't think it's a huge mountain to climb," Teahen said.
Maybe not. The club record is 19 straight losses in 2005. Now that would constitute a huge mountain.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.