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Maxwell comes through in a pinch, Royals win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Ned Yost's plan to generate some offense for the Kansas City Royals worked, albeit not in the way he expected.

Pinch-hitter Justin Maxwell, the newest member of the Royals and the last player on their bench, hit a home run leading off the top of the 12th inning to lift the Royals to a 4-3 victory over the New York Mets in front of what remained of a crowd of 25,095 at Citi Field.

The home run by Maxwell, whom the Royals acquired from the Astros on Thursday, accounted for the Royals' first run since the third inning and their only baserunner against Mets relievers, who retired 15 straight before David Aardsma surrendered the go-ahead blast.

"This was a hard-fought win, as hard-fought a win as we've had in a long, long time," Yost said. "To be able to stay after it the way that we did and continue to compete, continue to battle (and) finally hang in there long enough to score that run to get us over the hump.

"I just thought it was a great win for us."

Yost hoped to get the Royals, who had a nine-game winning streak snapped in a 4-2, 11-inning loss on Friday, back on track by starting designated hitter Billy Butler at first base and shifting first baseman Eric Hosmer to right in order to field the most optimal lineup possible in the National League park.

But it was mostly the backups who accounted for the Royals' runs, when Hosmer went 2-for-5 and Butler went 0-for-3 before he exited in a double switch in the seventh inning.

Backup catcher George Kottaras, who made only his 19th start of the season and entered the game hitting .164, hit a solo home run to start a three-run third inning.

Starting pitcher Bruce Chen followed with a single in his first at-bat of the season and scored the Royals' second run, and his first since 2003.

Miguel Tejada, the 39-year-old former MVP who has been pressed into regular duty by an injury to starting second baseman Chris Getz, capped the inning with an RBI single, one of his three hits.

"It was definitely weird running the bases out there; I haven't done that in a long time," Chen said. "I'm trying to do everything I can to help this team win, and I'm glad that I got that base hit.

"That ended up being a huge inning for us."

Chen, who allowed one run on four hits while striking out a season-high eight, was in line to earn the victory for the Royals (55-52) until the Mets tied the game with a two-run rally against Aaron Crow in the eighth.

Maxwell, who was the last player on the bench once Elliot Johnson entered in a double switch in the ninth inning, was ready to enter in a double switch of his own after Kelvin Herrera faced Daniel Murphy with one out in the 12th.

But Herrera, who pitched a career-high three innings, struck out Murphy and catcher Salvador Perez, who entered in the eighth inning, threw out Marlon Byrd trying to steal second to end the inning.

Maxwell put down his hat and glove, picked up a bat and hit a 3-and-2 pitch from David Aardsma barely fair down the left field line for his fifth career pinch home run.

"That's what we liked about Maxwell when we traded for him; he was a right-handed bat with power," Yost said.

Said Maxwell: "Pinch-hitting's not easy, (it's) probably the toughest thing to do on the baseball field. So you've just got to be aggressive, be ready to hit, because you never know when you're going to get a good pitch to hit. You can't miss it."

Herrera, who has been sent to Triple-A Omaha twice this year, allowed no hits and one walk while striking out three. Greg Holland notched his 29th save, and converted his 22nd straight opportunity, with a perfect bottom of the 12th.

"Kelvin Herrera was as big as Justin Maxwell today," Yost said. "To come in and throw three innings like that when our pitching was on fumes really was huge."

The loss capped a downbeat day for the Mets (49-59), who placed captain David Wright on the 15-day disabled list before the game because of a strained right hamstring. He is expected to miss three-to- five weeks.

Josh Satin was 2-for-5 with the game-tying, two-run single in the eighth for the Mets. Daniel Murphy was 2-for-5 with a solo home run in the second.

Mets starter Jeremy Hefner allowed three runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out six over six innings. The Mets retired 17 straight Royals before Maxwell's homer.

"(Relievers) made one bad pitch in a lot of innings," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Otherwise, I thought they pitched very well."

NOTES: This is David Wright's third stint on the disabled list. He missed two weeks because of a concussion in 2009 and missed a little more than two months because of a stress fracture in his lower back in 2011. ... Before the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said Murphy probably will get the bulk of playing time at third base should Wright require a lengthy absence. ... Collins said the Mets will employ a five-man rotation until Jonathon Niese comes back, at which point the Mets will again go with a six-man rotation in order to limit the innings of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Niese, who is recovering from a partially torn left rotator cuff, is scheduled to return to the Mets on Aug. 11. ... Royals 2B Chris Getz (left knee sprain) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Monday. ... LHP Tim Collins of the Royals, who missed Friday's game to visit his gravely ill grandfather, recorded the final out of the seventh inning. ... Bruce Chen made 12 appearances (11 starts) for the Mets in 2001 and 2002 and was the Mets' starter against the Braves on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first sporting event played in New York following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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