On a day when manager Billy Martin announced his resignation from the New York Yankees, interim manager Dick Howser and his stunned squad responded with a 3-run ninth inning against the Royals—capped by a 2-run double by clutch-hitting Chris Chambliss—to propel first-place New York to a come-from-behind 6-5 win in the first game of a two-game set at Kansas City.
In a meeting of last year’s AL championship series participants, the Royals struck first when Freddie Patek opened the third with a solid single off Catfish Hunter; he stole second, then scored ahead of Tom Poquette’s first home run of the season, a low line drive that barely cleared the wall in right field, spotting the Royals to an early 2-0 lead.
The Yankees scrambled back in the fifth, touching KC starter Rich Gale for three runs when, with two out, leadoff batter Willie Randolph walked, then advanced when Piniella sent a bloop single over Frank White’s reach into right-center field, putting runners at the corners for Chambliss. The Yankees first baseman had hit 17 home runs in each of his previous two seasons, but was well under his usual numbers this year, with just four to his credit thus far; he promptly drilled Gale’s 3-1 offering past the flag pole in right for his 5th to give the home club a 3-2 advantage.
The see-saw battle continued into the seventh, when the Royals scored two more off Hunter—the first when Willie Wilson doubled home Patek, the second when Poquette followed suit and doubled home Wilson—to re-take the lead and send the unfortunate Hunter packing. George Brett then greeted new pitcher Paul Lindblad with yet another two-bagger, KC’s third in a row, driving Poquette home without a throw and upping the Royals’ lead to 5-3. The next batter, Amos Otis, walked, and that was all for Lindblad, who was replaced by Jim Beattie; he enticed Hal McRae to foul-out to catcher Thurman Munson to end the frame.
The stage was then set for Chambliss’ heroics in the ninth. With rookie Bill Paschall on the mound for Kansas City, designated hitter Jim Spencer coaxed a walk from the right-hander with one out, as did Randolph moments later; with two on, Lou Piniella ripped a line-drive double past a diving Brett at third, scoring Spencer and sending Randolph to third. And on a night where a total of eight doubles had already been hit by both teams, Chambliss added a ninth, a long drive to the right field gap that one-hopped the wall and sent both the tying and go-ahead runs racing across the plate.
After Reggie Jackson lined into a double play to end the inning, Howser called for relief ace Rich Gossage from the bullpen, who proceeded to mow down Pete LaCock, Wilson, and hot-hitting Poquette with strikeouts to end the game, each caught looking at third-strike fastballs that they probably never saw. For Gossage, it was his 15th save on the year, helping Beattie to his fifth win.
The Yankees have scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to announce who will be named as the team’s new field manager.
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