KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Royals and Astros will be spending their October days in very different ways, but on Friday night, the two locked in a tight battle at Kauffman Stadium.
Houston, which has a comfortable lead in the American League West, beat the Royals, 4-1, on a three-run home run by right fielder George Springer in the ninth inning.
But the Royals (55-93) aren't going gently into that good night as they attempt to avoid what seems to be an inevitable second consecutive 100-loss season. And while none of the boys in blue raged against the dying of the light Friday, they were clearly angered by plate umpire Lance Barrett.
Trailing 1-0 in the seventh inning against Astros starter Gerrit Cole, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon showed his displeasure at a called third strike by dropping his bat at the plate.
When the inning ended, Royals manager Ned Yost came out to discuss the situation with Barrett and was ejected for the fourth time this season. Gordon also was tossed at the inning break, just the second time in his career he's been ejected.
Perhaps sparked by the confrontation, the Royals tied the game the following inning.
Center fielder Bubba Starling shattered his bat on a single to left field, stole second and took third on an errant throw by Astros catcher Martin Maldonado. Royals catcher Meibrys Viloria followed with a fly ball to center that scored Starling to tie it 1-1.
The Astros struck back immediately in the ninth inning against Heath Fillmyer. Kyle Tucker singled with one out and Michael Brantley walked. After Josh Reddick struck out, Springer crushed a pitch to left-center field to make it 4-1. The home run was estimated at 433 feet.
Early on, it didn't look to be a close game.
Royals starter Danny Duffy struggled through the first two innings, allowing a run on two hits and two walks. But he had thrown 54 pitches and it seemed likely the Royals bullpen would be called upon sooner than later.