KANSAS CITY — As Carlos Santana’s bat made a loud crack and the ball he just hammered sailed through the air, Royals bullpen coach Larry Carter turned to watch and threw his arms above his head because he knew, just like most in attendance at Kauffman Stadium knew, that the comeback was complete.
Santana’s three-run blast gave Kansas City the lead in the seventh inning after it had trailed by six runs in its eventual 9-8 victory over the Tigers on Saturday night. It was Santana’s second homer in as many days and punctuated a five-run seventh inning that gave the Royals the series win this weekend against Detroit.
On Alex Gordon Day at The K, when the organization honored his retirement, it was fitting that Kansas City won its fourth consecutive game.
“I guess we [have] to win on Gordo night,” said reliever Wade Davis, who earned the save in the ninth. “It’s going to have to happen every year, like a holiday.”
Two of Gordon’s former teammates were two of Saturday’s biggest contributors. Catcher Salvador Perez — who caught Gordon’s first pitch from left field — started the comeback with a three-run, 452-foot homer in the fifth inning that shrunk the Royals’ deficit to two.
“Some people were talking in the dugout, ‘It’s Gordon night. We need to keep going,’” Perez said. “I think we made his night special after the win. To catch him one more time, one more throw from left field, I’ll never forget it. He’s one of the best human beings I’ve ever met in my life.
“That was a special night for everybody tonight in Kansas City.”
Davis came in for just his third save opportunity this year after the veteran reliever has struggled throughout the season. But with Scott Barlow and Kyle Zimmer unavailable Saturday, manager Mike Matheny needed Davis after Greg Holland allowed a two-run homer in the ninth and threw eight consecutive balls to put two on with two outs.
Davis fell into a 2-0 count against Jeimer Candelario before getting him to swing through a cutter and foul off two more pitches. Then third-base umpire Ryan Additon ruled that Candelario swung through a curveball, sealing the Royals’ victory.
“Getting in those situations is fun,” Davis said. “It’s more fun when you’re doing well, but any time you feel the adrenaline in a one-run game, you’ve got runners on, you get a little extra electric spark, and you just have a lot more fun getting out there and getting the job done.”
The Royals were staring down a six-run deficit heading into the bottom of the fifth after starter Carlos Hernández struggled with command and was knocked out after 2 2/3 innings.
But these kinds of comebacks have happened before for Kansas City this season. The team didn’t think Saturday was any different.
“I can’t think of another team I’ve been around that’s as resilient as this group,” Matheny said. “We’re down, 5-0, and making a pitching change, and they’re on the mound talking about how we’re going to figure out how to get back in this game. That kind of stuff is some of the most fun in this game; watching guys face odds and figuring out ways to do things that people don’t expect.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Nicky Lopez — who was 3-for-3 with a walk on Saturday — put the Royals on the board with an RBI single. Then with two outs and two on, Perez came to the plate.
The sinker he crushed off Tigers starter Casey Mize landed in the left-center fountains.
“Mize is good,” Perez said of the young Detroit starter, who held Kansas City scoreless through four innings. “I don’t think he wants to leave a fastball in the middle of the plate against me, though. He’s going to be one of the best pitchers in the American League. But sometimes they’re going to make mistakes, and they’re going to pay. I just tried to hit the ball hard.”
Suddenly, momentum was on the Royals’ side. The bullpen kept the Tigers at bay long enough to allow the offense to take the lead and tack on in the seventh because of Hanser Alberto’s crucial pinch-hit, two-run triple.
It was the Royals’ largest deficit overcome in a win since June 6, 2017, when they beat Houston, 9-7, after trailing 7-1.
“The dugout was fired up,” reliever Jake Brentz said. “You can just tell we were going to win that game, how everyone was in the dugout and on the field. … We just need to keep this rolling.”