KANSAS CITY -- Once again, the Royals had a ninth-inning opportunity. This time, they couldn't pull it off.
When Jarrod Dyson swiped second base but slipped off the bag and was tagged out, the Royals' chances fizzled and the Los Angeles Angels held on to a 4-3 victory on a cloudy Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
That had to be a relief for the Angels, stunned by a historic 3-2 loss on Saturday night. It was the first time in the franchise's 51 years that they'd ever lost a game in the last inning on back-to-back home runs. It also was the first time in the Royals' 44-year history that they had used back-to-back blasts -- Billy Butler and Salvador Perez doing the honors -- to win a game.
But that was filed under "yesterday" as the Angels took the series, two games to one, and continued their quest for an American League Wild Card playoff spot.
Hanging close for the two losses with a contending team brought little solace to Royals manager Ned Yost.
"We're kind of, as a group, past the comfort stage of hanging with teams. We want to win games," Yost said.
That was the idea when, after Mike Moustakas blooped a one-out single to left field in the ninth, Dyson was sent to pinch-run. Every person in the crowd of 24,979 plus the truck drivers passing by on I-70 and, of course, the Angels knew that Dyson was going to commit a larcenous act.
Sure enough, on reliever Kevin Jepsen's first pitch to Jeff Francoeur, Dyson was off and running.
"I got a good jump on it and I don't like to peek in at the catcher when I'm running, so I kind of listen for the mitt to pop," Dyson said. "And I heard a mitt pop like way too early."
That was because catcher Bobby Wilson had jumped out from behind the plate to grab a pitch-out from Jepsen.
"And I'm like, I gotta get it in gear, so I pushed too hard, slid a little late and just kept slidin'," Dyson said.
Dyson beat Wilson's throw, so umpire D.J. Reyburn spread his arms in a safe motion. Trouble was, Dyson's headfirst slide carried him past the bag and his trailing foot strayed just inches off. Second baseman Howie Kendrick kept his tag on Dyson and, quickly, Reyburn changed his call to "out."
"I didn't think I came off too far but, obviously, he saw it. I've got to clean that up a little bit. I've got to be safe right there," Dyson said.
That was just the fifth time in 31 attempts this season that Dyson had been caught stealing.
"You put Dyson in those situations, he can steal a base if you pitch out or don't pitch out," Yost said. "The problem is, it takes him 20 feet to stop sliding, he's so fast."
That made the second out and Francoeur flied to right, ending the game and giving Jepsen his second save. Closer Ernesto Frieri, who gave up the dramatic homers the night before, was held out because he'd pitched two games in succession.
Stopping Dyson certainly was crucial.
"I guess that happens, when you're so fast that it's hard to actually stop," Jepsen said. "I made a good throw home, Bobby came up quick, made a good throw. I turned around and he's already at second base. It surprised me how quick he actually was. He's out. It helps. Got out of here with a win."
Mark Trumbo's three-run homer off Royals starter Will Smith made the difference.
In the first inning, Erick Aybar looped a double down the left-field line, just out of the diving Alex Gordon's reach, and scored on Torii Hunter's single that glanced off Smith's foot and past second baseman Tony Abreu, who was breaking toward the middle.
In the second, Vernon Wells and Alberto Callaspo each singled and Trumbo walloped his 31st homer to center field, 414 feet away. Smith recovered to pitch three scoreless innings.
"After the home run, I finally started to get it dialed up, but I need to be able to do that in the first inning -- not the third after four runs have been given up," Smith said.
Abreu, leading off the Royals' third inning, got his first home run in a KC uniform, a drive to right field. In the second, Perez's double and two groundouts accounted for their first run.
An outfield collision between Angels center fielder Mike Trout and right fielder Hunter in the fourth resulted in a double for Billy Butler, the ball dropping off Hunter's glove. Both outfielders, very valuable parts of the Angels' lineup, were assessed for damage and stayed in the game.
Angels starter Dan Haren followed with two strikeouts, but Francoeur was safe on an infield single and when shortstop Aybar threw the ball past first, Butler scored on the error to make it 4-3. That's where it stayed.
There would be no ninth-inning magic for the Royals this time.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.