KANSAS CITY -- Left-hander Tommy Milone found a way to quiet what had been a rowdy bunch of Kansas City batters. For eight innings, that is.
But not for nine. The Royals launched an ambitious comeback in the ninth inning that electrified the 35,518 fans at Kauffman Stadium, but they finally yielded to the Oakland Athletics, 6-3, on Friday night. All three KC runs came in the last inning, which ended with the potential tying run at the plate.
"We tried to get it back, but it was a little late," said Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
Still, the rousing comeback stirred up a nearly filled stadium. More than 10,000 fans bought their tickets on game day, swarming to the ballpark on a gorgeous holiday weekend evening that featured postgame fireworks.
Nothing was popping against Milone for the first eight innings, however, for a Royals offense that had averaged 5.6 runs in their previous 10 games, winning six of them. Heck, they'd just scored 21 runs in three games against Cleveland.
But Milone had them shut out on two hits over the first eight innings.
"It didn't even look like he broke a sweat," said A's manager Bob Melvin.
Milone retired the first 11 batters before red-hot Eric Hosmer, stretching his hitting streak to seven games, singled to center in the fourth. The Royals didn't have another baserunner until the sixth, when David Lough singled up the middle with two outs. Neither hit yielded tangible results.
"He was throwing it shoebox," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. "He was hitting every spot and had a great cutter. He was going in and out and doing whatever he wanted to do."
"Lot of heaters," teammate Jarrod Dyson said. "He commanded the zone pretty good, I don't even think he had a walk. He ain't got no blow-it-by-you fastball, but he got the job done."
Milone also had a perplexing changeup that he used effectively on right-handed hitters.
"He had one of the best changeups I've seen," Butler said.
The Royals reverted to their recently rambunctious ways, though, in the ninth inning and managed to get Milone out of the game. Lough lined a one-out double and Alcides Escobar ended the shutout with a double down the right-field line. Hosmer singled to drive in Escobar and when Butler also singled, Milone's outing was over.
"I wish I could go back and pitch that ninth inning again," Milone said. "I felt good, in control the whole game."
The Oakland lefty threw just 87 pitches in the first eight innings. The Royals just came out swinging in their last chance.
"He's going for the complete game and he's trying to get ahead, trying to keep that pitch count down so he can get that," Hosmer said. "So, we came out pretty aggressive and strung some hits together."
The A's brought in closer Grant Balfour and Perez greeted him with an RBI single up the middle, the Royals' fifth straight hit. But Lorenzo Cain bounced into a forceout and Mike Moustakas grounded out to end the comeback and the game.
"We just came out a little short," Hosmer said.
Royals right-hander Wade Davis, who left his command of pitches at home last Saturday during a visit to Minnesota, was much more in control of things against Oakland. Against the Twins, Davis ran through an unimaginable 53 pitches in the first inning alone and departed in the second inning without an out. So to compile one official inning, he threw 69 pitches. If that wasn't an all-time high, it was amongst 'em.
This time around, Davis was downright tidy. He got through the first inning in 10 pitches and the second inning in seven pitches and no one reached base. But the A's picked up one run in the third inning and two more in the fifth.
However, there was a point in Davis' favor. He didn't throw his 69th pitch until the end of the fifth. He worked seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits and one walk. Davis' eight strikeouts matched his season high.
"I've been pretty antsy wanting to get back out there and do a little better, and get things going in the right direction," Davis said.
As it developed, the issue was decided when the A's three runs in the ninth against reliever J.C. Gutierrez doubled their lead to 6-0. Singles by Brandon Moss and John Jaso bracketed an out before right fielder Cain missed Josh Reddick's hard line drive for a run-scoring error.
"It just kind of tailed away from me. It had a lot of top spin on it and I just flat-out missed it," Cain said. "I have to make that play. I've made it a hundred times, but it was the difference in the ballgame."
Royals manager Ned Yost noted that Cain was intent on throwing out the runner breaking from third base after the catch.
"Ball was hit hard, he's charging, the ball's sinking, he's trying to catch it and hold that run," Yost said. "I think he just tried to do it too quick."
The error also left two runners in scoring position and, after Gutierrez got the second out, he gave up a two-run single to Coco Crisp.
"I didn't have my best stuff. My location was a little up," Gutierrez said.
But the Cain miscue hurt.
"If we make the play in right field, Guty might get away with only giving up one run," Yost said.
And then, perhaps, the Royals' ninth-inning charge might have had a different result.
"We're not going to go down quietly, you know," Hosmer said. "It's definitely a good sign putting up some runs late like that."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.