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Nelson Velazquez’s ninth-inning triple sparks KC Royals’ comeback against Padres

Once again, Nelson Velazquez hit a ball to deep left center in the ninth inning.

But instead of coming tantalizingly close to a three-run homer that would‘ve tied Friday’s game, the Royals pinch-hitter tripled off the Boulevard sign at Kauffman Stadium, scoring two runs and leading Kansas City to a 4-3 victory.

Velazquez’s Sunday afternoon triple — his first triple of the season —scored two runs. And then Velazquez scored the game-winner on Nick Loftin’s sacrifice fly.

The Royals’ three-run ninth inning meant they avoided being swept for the first time this season. The frame started with Vinnie Pasquantino’s single and a walk to Salvador Perez, who was lifted for pinch-runner Dairon Blanco.

All the damage came against Padres left-handed reliever Yuki Matsui.

The Royals entered the ninth with a deficit having surrendered two runs in the eighth on a throw that reliever Angel Zerpa wishes he had back. Not a pitch, but a pickoff attempt toward first base.

Zerpa’s errant toss, intended to keep the Padres’ Tyler Wade close to the bag, sailed past Pasquantino and landed far enough away for Wade to take two bases. That opened a two-run inning and allowed the Padres to take a 3-1 lead.

The Royals broke through in the fourth when the top of their batting order came around for the second time. Maikel Garcia drew a walk and Bobby Witt followed with a soft liner to left, moving Garcia to third.

Pasquantino added to his American League lead in sacrifice flies (eight) when his shot to left was deep enough to score Garcia.

But the inning was short-circuited when King anticipated Witt’s intention to swipe second base. Witt was tagged out in a rundown.

The Padres evened the score in the fifth. With two outs, Jose Azocar’s perfectly placed fly dropped between Kyle Isbel in center and Witt. It appeared Witt’s leg caught Isbel on the side of the head as they lunged for the ball.

Isbel finished the inning but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in his next plate appearance. The Royals announced that he had suffered a non-concussive head and neck and injury.

Luis Arraez followed with a sharp single to right to score Azocar, but Arrarez was gunned down at second by Salavador Perez.

Cole Ragans finished with six strikeout in six innings, none bigger than his final one. He got Jake Cronenworth to swing through a slider, leaving a pair of Padres on base to end the sixth.

Next up for the Royals

After an off-day Monday, the Royals travel to AL Central-leading Cleveland to begin a three-game series.

The Royals have announced Seth Lugo and Brady Singer as starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games. Both of those games are scheduled to begin at 5:40 p.m. Central Time.

As of Sunday evening, the Royals hadn’t yet announced who will start Thursday’s game.

Missed previous Royals coverage?

Game 1: Royals’ bullpen collapses in 11-8 loss to Padres

Game 2: Pasquantino nearly hits for cycle, but Royals fall