The baseball just cleared the third baseman's glove, low enough to an out to cause the Rogers Centre crowd to groan, but still high enough to allow the Kansas City Royals to exhale.
Omar Infante's two-run single in the 10th inning pulled the Royals ahead in an 8-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and reduced the sting of this week's embarrassment.
The Royals (25-28) tied the game in the ninth when Jarrod Dyson scored from second on a throwing error by former All Star shortstop Jose Reyes. They won with a 10th inning rally aided by Pedro Ciriaco getting hit by a pitch in the head -- when he nearly connected with the ball on a bunt attempt.
The offense bailed out starter James Shields, who was terrorized by Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. He emptied his toolbox try to temper the Blue Jays. He even picked off a pair of runners. But he could not keep the baseball in the park. Shields yielded six runs, thanks to a trio of two-run blasts, two of them from Encarnacion.
Earlier this week, the team endured a three-game humiliation at the hands of the Astros. They demoted hitting coach Pedro Grifol and shifted third-base coach Dale Sveum into that position. Amid the upheaval, the club turned to its finest player. Two winters ago, the Royals traded for James Shields to curb skids like this.
A freight train awaited him. The Blue Jays steamed into Rogers Centre on a nine-game winning streak. Their lineup is savage, packed with sluggers like Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Jose Bautista.
It was Bautista who dinged Shields in the first. Shields had just given up a single to former Royal Melky Cabrera. He tried to stuff a cutter at Bautista's knees. But Bautista ripped his bat through the zone and lined a two-run shot over the left-field fence.
Just like that, the Royals fell behind. For a club sporting a new hitting coach, the task was tall. R.A. Dickey may no longer grace the heights he climbed as the National League Cy Young award winner in 2012. But he is still a baffling presence on the mound, capable of unfurling a knuckleball that ranges from 65 mph to 80 mph.
The pitch registered at 77 mph when it fluttered, on a 1-2 count, toward Salvador Perez. The ball exited the park at an accelerated speed. Perez detonated a solo shot into the second deck. Two innings later, doubles by Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon created a run.
Another long ball cost the Royals the tie. The scenario felt quite reminiscent. Lind singled. Up came Encarnacion. Shields tried to fit another cutter inside. This pitch was slightly higher than the one to Bautista. It ended up in the same place, blasted over the fence in left.
Once again, the Royals trailed by a pair of runs. They would not wait long to answer. The uprising began from one of the unlikeliest sources: backup utility man Ciriaco. He laced a double off the wall in center, narrowly missing a game-tying homer. Instead, it was an RBI double.
After Nori Aoki dropped a splendid bunt single, Omar Infante tied the game by lining a knuckler into left. A similar hit into right by Billy Butler gave the Royals their first advantage of the night.
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