Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Moustakas, Bullpen Lead Royals Past Astros In 11

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[April 17, 2014]  HOUSTON  Bit by bit, the Kansas City Royals are showing signs of recovery.

On Wednesday, two key components of their roster  third baseman Mike Moustakas and their power-laden bullpen  delivered.

Moustakas slapped a leadoff home run to right field in the top of the 11th inning to support a brilliant performance by a quartet of Royals relievers in a 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Second baseman Omar Infante added a run-scoring fielder's choice off Astros right-hander Jerome Williams (0-1) to complete the comeback for Kansas City, which trailed 4-2 entering the seventh.

Moustakas opened the night with just two extra-base hits and a .150 slugging percentage before his second at-bat off the bench shifted momentum.

"I hit it pretty good," Moustakas said. "I got underneath it a little bit, but I knew I hit it pretty good. I was kind of blowing as it was up in the air hoping it was going out. I knew I got it pretty good. I didn't know how far it was going to go, but I was obviously happy it carried out of here."

Royals closer Greg Holland earned his fifth save by blanking the Astros in the 11th. Kansas City rode five scoreless innings of relief to victory, as Holland teamed with Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and left-hander Danny Duffy (1-0) to produce eight strikeouts against just eight baserunners.

The Royals' bullpen ranked 23rd in the majors in ERA (4.76) and 26th in walk rate at 13.1 percent before setting the stage for the comeback.

"I don't think that they needed a confidence boost; they've been pretty successful for the last two years," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They just needed to get themselves on track. They're not lacking confidence; it's just early in the year. They were behind in the count and walking guys, and tonight they came in on the attack with their great stuff that they have. They did a phenomenal job."

After Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel worked six solid innings, his bullpen coughed up the two-run lead immediately. Right-hander Brad Peacock, scheduled to start Sunday in Oakland, allowed two hits while recording two outs in the seventh before left-hander Kevin Chapman, summoned to face left-handed-hitting Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, issued a five-pitch walk to load the bases.

Royals catcher Salvador Perez followed by slapping the first pitch from Astros right-hander Matt Albers past diving shortstop Marwin Gonzalez and into center field, scoring both Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.

"This was tough to swallow because we felt we had the right guys in the right situation tonight," Astros manager Bo Porter said of his bullpen. "We just did not get it done."

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Third baseman Danny Valencia delivered his first home run, a one-out solo shot to left in the second that staked Kansas City to a 1-0 lead. The blast was the second of the series and third of the season for the Royals.

Astros right fielder George Springer, promoted Wednesday to provide the scuffling offense a spark, did exactly that when he reached on a swinging bunt single in the third inning for his first major league hit.

One batter later, with Springer bouncing on first as a base-stealing threat, catcher Jason Castro crushed a two-run homer off Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie into the seats in left, giving Houston a 2-1 lead.

Springer finished 1-for-5 with a run scored, a walk and two strikeouts.

"It's always good to get that first one out of the way," said Springer, the Astros' third-rated prospect. "I didn't really hit it all that well, but I will take it. Now I can relax, breathe a little bit and just have some fun."

Kansas City pulled even in the top of the fourth inning, loading the bases against Keuchel before Cain delivered a run-scoring groundout that brought home left fielder Alex Gordon from third.

NOTES: The Astros selected the contract of RF George Springer, their third-ranked prospect and the organization's 2013 minor league player of the year. Springer was batting .353 with eight extra-base hits, nine RBIs and four stolen bases in 13 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City. He had his first hit in his second at-bat, a swinging bunt single. ... The Astros optioned OF Robbie Grossman to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Springer. Grossman had a .125/.236/.313 line in 14 starts. Houston also designated RHP Lucas Harrell for assignment after he dropped to 0-3 with a 9.49 ERA on Tuesday night. ... Royals LHP Bruce Chen was scratched from his Thursday night start because of back stiffness. RHP James Shields will replace Chen against the Astros, with Chen tentatively scheduled to start Sunday in the series finale against the Minnesota Twins.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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