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Valaika’s blast lifts Rockies over Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pat Valaika got the pitch he expected and in words “didn’t miss it.”
Valaika homered in the eighth inning as the Colorado Rockies came from behind to down the Kansas City Royals 3-2 on Thursday afternoon.
“An educated guess, I’d say,” Valaika said on what Minor might serve up with the count full. “Just watching video, I think that’s his pitch, so kind of in the back of my mind.”
Valaika homered with two outs with Gerardo Parra aboard off left-hander Minor. That snapped a four-game Rockies’ losing streak.
“He’s had a nice year for us,” Rockies manager Buddy Black said. “But, that’s what it takes. A big swing changes the complex of all three games and today was our turn. Yesterday was their turn. We had a chance in game one in the ninth, with Pat, when two outs and (Scott) Alexander came in and made a pitch.
“But, those are three really good games, when you think about the excitement at the end. A little bit of the drama of a tight game where every pitch is critical as the game moves into the later innings, those are three good games.”
Minor called it a “terrible pitch” to Valaika.
“I don’t want to walk him, but obviously there are bases open,” Minor said. “I wanted to make a quality pitch. I threw three in a row right there and all three were bad. (To) Valaika, I just didn’t make any good pitches. I’ll be out there again. I’ve got to move on.”
Greg Holland, who blew a save Wednesday when he allowed a three-run walk-off home run to former teammate Eric Hosmer, logged his 36th save in 40 chances with a 1-2-3 ninth.
“I wish I’d have pitched a little better last night and we took two out of three, but it was really special to get to see some of those guys and wish them luck going down the stretch because we’re kind of in the same thing with the wild-card race,” Hosmer said.
“They’ve been there, done that. We’ve got some players on our side that have been there and done that, too, so it should be fun for both teams.”
Whit Merrifield homered, his 15th, to lead off the Kansas City first. It was Merrifield’s third career leadoff homer.
Brandon Moss hit his 17th home run to lead off the second. Moss hit German Marquez’s first pitch out to right. But that was it for the Royals’ scoring. Marquez is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four career interleague starts.
Jake Junis gave up a single to Parra and a double down the right-field line to Carlos Gonzalez on a 2-2 pitch to start the Rockies’ sixth. After Valaika popped up to shortstop Alcides Escobar, manager Ned Yost summoned left-hander Scott Alexander from the bullpen to face left-handed hitting Raimel Tapia.
Tapia drilled a RBI single to left, scoring Parra and moving Gonzalez to third. On Alexander’s next pitch, Trevor Story grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Junis gave up one run on seven hits, walked one and struck out seven, matching his career best, in 5 1/3 innings.
“I was commanding the slider to both sides of the plate, early and late in the count,” Junis said.
Junis had a moment of truth in the fifth inning when No. 9 hitter Tony Wolters walked and Charlie Blackmon singled with one out. Junis struck out DJ LeMahieu and retired Nolan Arenado, who had singled in his first two at-bats, on a fielder’s choice grounder to third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert.
“Junis was very impressive,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
NOTES: Royals 3B Mike Moustakas was held out of the lineup with a tender knee. He was used as a pinch hitter in the ninth and flied out to Charlie Blackmon in center. Manager Ned Yost said it is not serious and Moustakas would play Friday. Cheslor Cuthbert replaced him at third. ... The Rockies will continue this two-city trip with three games in Atlanta. Braves RHP Julio Teheran and Colorado RHP Chad Bettis are the Friday probables. ... Kansas City is 35-30 at Kauffman Stadium. ... The Royals will play a weekend series at Cleveland, which leads the American League Central. Kansas City LHP Jason Vargas and Indians LHP Ryan Merritt are the Friday starters.