The game will certainly stand out in the minds of every player involved for years to come, but the Kansas City Royals’ home finale will be a particularly special memory for slugger Ryan O’Hearn.
O’Hearn’s sixth-inning two-run double gave the Royals the lead and completed an epic comeback as they overcame a nine-run deficit in a wild game that included a pair of ejections before first pitch, an eight-run inning by the Seattle Mariners and an 11-run inning as part of the Royals’ rally.
The Royals used that 11-run barrage to beat the Mariners 13-12 before an announced 18,350 at Kauffman Stadium Sunday afternoon. That 11-run inning matched the second-most runs scored in an inning in franchise history.
The Royals (63-90) won the three-game series with that victory, and they finished their final homestand of the season having gone 5-1.
“I’ve been a part of a few comebacks, but I can’t think of anything like that,” O’Hearn said. “To do it on the last day at home of the season in front of our fans, that was pretty special.”
The left-handed hitting 29-year-old first baseman/outfielder O’Hearn has been on the major-league roster all season, but has served primarily as a bench player as the Royals have transitioned prospects like outfielder/catcher MJ Melendez, first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino and first baseman/outfielder Nick Pratto to the majors this season.
O’Hearn came into the day having played in 62 games this season, but having had just 123 at-bats.
“Obviously, I know the deal,” O’Hearn said. “It’s been hard. When I see my name in the lineup and I get a chance to play, I just try to be grateful and appreciate it and enjoy every minute out there that I get to play. Compete my (tail) off every at-bat and do whatever I can do to help the boys and help this team.
“Today was special. Today was a big hit for me. There were maybe a few bright spots I can think of this season. This is one that I’m going to remember for sure.”
According to Sportradar, the game wasn’t only special, it was also historic. The game marked the first in Royals history where both scored and allowed at least eight runs in an inning.
It also marked the first time it happened in the majors since Aug. 12, 2008, when the Boston Red Sox had a 10-run first inning and the Texas Rangers had an eight-run fifth during a game at Fenway Park.
Royals rookie second baseman Michael Massey went 2 for 5 with a home run and four RBIs, while Hunter Dozier had three hits, his third multi-hit day in four games, to go along with two RBIs and a walk.
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) September 25, 2022
Also collecting multi-hit games for the Royals were Bobby Witt Jr. (2 for 5, two runs scored, two RBIs), Vinnie Pasquantino (2 for 4, walk), Edward Olivares (2 for 4, walk, three runs scored) and O’Hearn (2 for 3, walk).
Before that game started, Royals pitcher Luke Weaver and Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray were both ejected for not leaving the field in a standoff following the national anthem. That was before the real weirdness began.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been a part of anything quite like it,” Massey said. “I don’t think anyone’s ever been ejected before the game. Then I don’t think we’ve scored 11 runs in an inning following them scoring eight runs in an inning.
“I think it’s just a testament to the character of the team and guys not giving up and just wanting to stay in the fight.”
Royals starting pitcher Max Castillo, recalled from Triple-A prior to the game, allowed six runs in the game and five came in the fifth inning. He didn’t record an out in that inning before he turned it over to the bullpen. That turned into an eight-run inning for the Mariners.
“I think (Max) Castillo kind of hit the wall right then,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Then it just turned into one of those innings you’d like to forget. But it made part of the story sweet in the fact that the guys kept fighting. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that.”
At the start of the sixth inning, the Royals trailed 9-2. Then a two-out, two-run single by Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford made it a nine-run deficit as the Mariners held what seemed a commanding 11-2 lead.
“You can go one of two ways with it,” O’Hearn said. “You can get down and be defeated, or we can say we’ve got a lot of baseball left in this game and you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Royals turned the ballpark on its head in the bottom of the sixth. After Pasquantino struck out to start the inning, an Olivares walk put a runner on base in front of Massey, who blasted a two-run home run that traveled an estimated 414 feet -- just his third homer in the majors.
Those two runs appeared a mere drop in the bucket, but the Royals kept pouring it on with walks by O’Hearn and Dozier, a Drew Waters single to load the bases and a fielder’s choice by MJ Melendez that scored a run.
“You just try to make it hard on them,” Massey said. “I don’t know that you’re saying we’re going to come back and win, but what you’re for sure saying is we’re going to make them earn it and see what happens.”
Witt smashed a double to center field that drove in two more runs as the Royals chipped the deficit down to four runs, 11-7.
Walks by Pasquantino and Salvador Perez loaded the bases, and Olivares’ infield single, deflected off of third baseman Ty France, allowed Witt to score.
Then Massey came up with a second chance to do damage, and he flared a two-run single the other way just over the infielders and into left field in just the right spot to allow two more runs to score as the Royals suddenly pulled within a run 11-10.
O’Hearn stepped to the plate for the sixth consecutive Royals’ plate appearance with two outs, and he ripped a two-run double to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs in a half inning that began with the Royals down by nine.
“You should have seen when we pinch-ran for O’Hearn and he came in and how that dugout embraced him,” Matheny said. “They understand what a pro he has been. What a great teammate he has been in very difficult circumstances. He’s a good player. To be able to get an opportunity and have some good at-bats, but a huge one right there with the double.”
Dozier’s single scored O’Hearn and put the finishing touch on an 11-run inning as the Royals took a 13-11 lead. Dozier got thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit into a double to end the inning.
“That’s one of the craziest games that I’ve been a part of,” Dozier said. “First to be down that much then score 11 innings two innings later or whatever it was. Just a crazy game. A lot of walks on both sides. Good, timely hitting. It was definitely a good win.”
The Mariners scored a run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh to make it a one-run game, but the Royals bullpen made that slim margin hold up.
“A win like that,” Matheny said, “To have one of those ever is a major deal, but that’s something that I believe this team will grow from, even growing further in their careers.”
They’ll begin their season-ending nine-game road trip on Tuesday night in Detroit.