HOUSTON — It was all set up for an inspiring Royals series win over the reigning World Series champion Astros.
Royals starter Ian Kennedy was excellent, throwing seven innings of two-run ball. First baseman Hunter Dozier hit a big three-run homer and the Royals carried a one-run lead into the ninth on Saturday night at MInute Maid Park.
But the Astros pushed across a soft run in the ninth off right-hander Brandon Maurer, then won it in the 12th against right-hander Justin Grimm when Carlos Correa singled with the bases loaded and none out for a 4-3 walk-off win.
The Astros loaded the bases in the 12th on a walk, a bloop single by Alex Bregman that fell between Dozier, second baseman Ryan Goins and right fielder Rosell Herrera, and an intentional walk. Correa then lined a 1-1 pitch to right-center.
“Just a little inexperience I think at first base where Hunter was thinking that the second baseman was over, but he wasn’t, he was up the middle,” manager Ned Yost said, “and by the time he realized it nobody could make a play on the ball.”
Maurer gave up a seeing-eye single to Yuli Gurriel, then a bloop single to center by Josh Reddick that sent pinch-runner Jake Marisnick to third. Marisnick then scored on a bloop sacrifice fly to left by Evan Gattis.
Maurer appeared to have Gurriel out on a 0-2 fastball that nicked the bottom of the strike zone.
“The heater … it was close,” Maurer said. “One of those that can go either way. Would have been a huge out. Would have got me to two outs with no one on.”
Kennedy came into the game 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his career against Houston. And he was on point again this time, giving up four hits over seven innings. He walked one and struck out five.
Kennedy said he can’t explain his mastery of the Astros.
“Not really. Sometimes you pitch against teams that it doesn’t matter who is in the lineup,” Kennedy said “Maybe it’s the stadium. I don’t know — teams are bound to get you once or twice. Not yet [with the Astros].”
Dozier, who hit a two-run shot off Lance McCullers Jr. on Sunday in Kansas City, drilled a three-run opposite-field homer in the fourth this time against McCullers.
Dozier hit a 2-1 two-seamer on a line over the right-field fence with Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon on board.
Kennedy gave two back in the bottom of the fourth, including one on a homer by Gurriel that just crawled into the left-field Crawford Boxes — Statcast™ projected its distance at just 348 feet.