WASHINGTON — For the 61st time this season, the Royals held the lead in a game.
But for a MLB-leading 31st time, the Royals watched that lead vanish Friday night.
This time it was closer Ian Kennedy, who had been 11-of-13 in save situations coming in, who gave up two runs in the ninth on an RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI single by Brian Dozier, allowing the Nationals to forge a 4-4 tie.
The Royals, though, battled back with three runs in the 11th inning to win it, 7-4. Adalberto Mondesi poked a bases-loaded single to left to make it 5-4, and a two-run throwing error by Zimmerman on a grounder to first provided insurance.
“It was big for us, especially after [Thursday] kinda giving up the lead and then giving it up again today,” said Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who hit the grounder that Zimmerman misplayed. “We could’ve put our heads down and took a loss. Give us credit for putting together a good inning and making something happen.”
Added Royals manager Ned Yost, “We kept fighting. There was a lot of stuff that could have slowed you down, but they kept after it.”
Wily Peralta, who finished last season as the Royals’ closer, came on to close out the game.
The Nationals left 19 runners on base.
“We put a lot of guys on for them,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “What did we have, eight walks and a hit batter?”
Actually, it was 11 walks and a hit batter.
But the bullpen did have some positive moments.
It wobbled in the seventh inning as Kevin McCarthy, protecting a 4-1 lead, walked two hitters and gave up an RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman. With two outs, left-hander Tim Hill came on to face pinch-hitter Victor Robles and hit him with the first pitch, loading the bases.
But right-hander Jake Newberry struck out pinch-hitter Matt Adams to end the threat.
“That was a huge out by Jake,” Yost said. “I didn’t want to have to use him, or go multiple innings with McCarthy or go three straight days with Peralta. But they were up for it.”
Royals starter Brad Keller also struggled with the strike zone, but navigated through numerous jams. Keller gave up six hits and five walks through 5 2/3 innings, but gave up just one run.
Keller said his biggest issue was getting a grip on the baseball in the steamy conditions.
“I just kept going to the resin bag and to the dirt to keep my hand dry,” Keller said. “Every time I went to the set, my hand and arm were dripping wet. At the end, I just went to my sinker — that’s the only pitch I could sort of command.”
Mondesi generated much of the Royals’ offense early with an RBI triple — his MLB-leading ninth — and a double, while scoring twice.