KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Atlanta Braves were poised to put an end to some road woes in their first trip to Kansas City, having taken the opener of a two-game series and then rallying to force extra innings Wednesday night.
With runners on first and second and one out in the 10th, manager Fredi Gonzalez stuck with Gerald Laird rather than call for a pinch hitter, only to watch him ground into an inning-ending double play.
It was the last chance the Braves would get to win the game.
Alex Gordon drove in David Lough in the bottom half of the inning, sending the Royals spilling out of their dugout and into right field to celebrate a dramatic 4-3 victory.
``I hit the ball pretty hard. I just hit it right at them,' Laird said of his double-play ball, which Miguel Tejada fielded effortlessly at third base and then sent flinging around the diamond.
``It's just the way it goes,' Laird said. ``Tried to jump on him early and just hit it right at him.'
Gonzalez said he never wavered in his decision to stick with Laird, who doubled in the second inning but had come up empty in his next three trips to the plate.
``You going to pinch-hit for a guy who's been in the game and he's been hot, he's been swinging it, for a guy who has been sitting around for three hours?' Gonzalez said. ``But again I felt really, really good about that situation with Gerald at the plate.'
Lough had entered the game the previous inning as a pinch hitter, but was still at-bat because Elliot Johnson was picked off first base to end the ninth. Lough singled off Braves reliever Alex Wood (0-2) to start the 10th and then reached second when Tejada laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt.
That set the stage for Gordon, who hit a solo home run earlier in the game. He dropped a base hit into shallow left field, allowing Lough to score easily as the Royals spilled from their dugout.
Aaron Crow (4-3) worked the 10th inning for the Royals, who had lost five of their last six, while the Braves (45-34) fell to 20-23 on the road this season.
``That's a great team over there that's leading its division,' manager Ned Yost said. ``They've got 45 wins and we matched them pitch for pitch. Every game we played them we competed. These kids are getting better. I think throughout the second half they will continue to that.'
The Royals were actually in control through six innings.
Gordon ended a 159 at-bat homerless drought with his first-inning shot, the first leadoff homer of the season for the Royals. It was Gordon's first home run since May 9 at Baltimore.
Billy Butler added a two-out double to right, and then the big DH chugged home when Salvador Perez got just enough of the bat on a pitch from Mike Minor to hit a single to left field.
The Royals tacked on another run in the third when Gordon singled to lead off the inning. Alcides Escobar put runners on the corners with nobody out before Eric Hosmer lined into a double play, but Butler managed to bring Gordon home with a timely single to make it 3-0.
That was all the offense until Luis Mendoza started to unravel in the seventh inning.
The Royals starter kept the Braves off balance with a mixture of fastballs and sliders, and had given up just three hits to that point. But he'd put runners on the corners with two outs when he was lifted for left-hander Bruce Chen, who promptly served up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Reed Johnson.
Chen walked Jason Heyward to load the bases and was replaced by right-hander Luke Hochevar, who gave up a tying two-run single to Justin Upton. Heyward was thrown out at third on the play to end the inning.
Minor allowed three runs on nine hits over six innings, while Mendoza gave up two runs on five hits over 6 2-3 innings. Neither of them factored into the decision.
``I felt I was making good pitches again, but there's three runs on the board,' Minor said, ``and they only hit two hard balls and one of the hard hit balls was the home run.'
The game ultimately came down to the bullpens, though.
Alex Avilan and Jordan Walden breezed through the Royals lineup, the only blip coming when Mike Moustakas singled off Walden with two outs in the ninth inning. Johnson came in to pinch run and strayed too far from first base, allowing Walden to pick him off and end the inning.
Hochevar wound up going 1 1-3 innings for the Royals, who brought in star closer Greg Holland to pitch the ninth inning. He struck out the side on just 11 pitches.
``They have a very strong bullpen,' Lough said, ``but we were able to get to them in that last inning.'
NOTES: Royals RHP Yordano Ventura (Double-A Northwest Arkansas) and RHP Miguel Almonte (Class A Lexington) will pitch for the world team in the Futures Game. Braves INF Joey Terdoslavich (Triple-A Gwinnett) will play for the U.S. and C Christian Bethancourt (Double-A Mississippi) for the world. ... The Royals begin a four-game series Thursday at Minnesota. The Braves have a day off before starting a three-game set against Arizona on Friday night.
The Associated Press News Service
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