KC Royals Rewind: The day the runs just kept coming

(Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals lost 104 games in 2004. But on an early September afternoon, they couldn’t stop scoring runs.

Detroit beat the KC Royals 8-0 in the second game of a Sept. 9, 2004, doubleheader. For the Tigers, it was payback for the easy win KC claimed in the day’s first game. But the eight-run whitewash was an insufficient measure of revenge for what the Royals did to their hosts in the opener.

Kansas City battered and humiliated the Tigers; there simply is no more polite or adequate way to describe it. The Royals scored four runs in the first inning, two in the second and 11 in the third on their way to a 26-5 victory. Almost sixteen years later, the 26 runs remain the most the club has ever scored in a game.

The 2004 Royals were bad, losers of 104 games (two less than the team record) and unlikely candidates to score 26 runs in just one game–averaging just under 5.6 runs per game, KC usually would need five games to score 26 times. In no single month did they have a winning record; they were 25-57 on the road and 33-47 at home; their first half (31-54) was only slightly better than their second (27-50); their longest winning streak was three; and they gave up 21 runs in a game.

The Sept. 9 outburst, then, was a surprise. Although scoring was, considering Tiger pitching,  predictable–the nondescript collection of Jason Johnson, Lino Urdaneta, Franklyn German, Craig Dingman, and John Ennis would suffer the thrashing–the magnitude of the event certainly wasn’t.

It all began with a four-run first. Johnson gave up walks to center fielder David DeJesus and shortstop Angel Berroa, and right fielder Abraham Nunez reached on an infield error to load the bases. First baseman Matt Stairs‘ sacrifice fly scored DeJesus; Joe Randa‘s double cleared the bases and he advanced to third on the throw-in; designated hitter Calvin Pickering hit a sac fly to score Randa.

The KC Royals added two more runs in the second on a triple by Berroa and a wild pitch.

Then came the epic third. Stairs grounded out to lead off against Johnson; it would be the Tiger starter’s only good moment of the inning. Randa singled to left, Pickering worked Johnson to a full count and walked, and left fielder Dee Brown singled in Randa to make it 7-2. catcher Alberto Castillo slipped a double down the right field line to score Pickering (8-2); like Pickering, second baseman Ruben Gotay pushed Johnson to 3-2 and walked to load the bases.

Detroit manager Alan Trammell had seen enough of Johnson and called on Urdaneta, who promptly issued another 3-2 walk, this time to DeJesus to score Brown (9-2). Berroa singled to drive in Castillo (10-2). Nunez drilled a two-run single to center (12-2). Stairs’ single scored Berroa (13-2); Randa followed with an infield hit to again load the bases.

Pickering and Brown hit successive one-run singles to make it 15-2 and Randa and Pickering scored on Castillo’s single (17-2). German, who relieved Urdaneta after Pickering’s RBI single, retired Gotay and DeJesus to mercifully end the inning with the game out of hand.

The Royals sent 16 men to the plate in the third–13 reached safely, the club batted around almost twice, and seven straight singles spurred the 11-run explosion.

Detroit was done but the KC Royals weren’t. They scored five in the sixth, two in the fourth and one in each of the eighth and ninth innings for a total of 26 runs and a 26-5 victory.

Randa, the trusty third baseman who finished the year with a .274 average, went 6-for-7 to lead the club, scored six times and drove in two runs. His six hits tied him with Bob Oliver (1969) and Kevin Seitzer (1987) for most in a single KC game; the seven at-bats represented a record Randa held alone until Whit Merrifield tied it in 2017; five of Randa’s hits were singles to tie another individual record held by several Royals; and his six runs remain an individual record.

Berroa hit just eight homers all season but clubbed KC’s only one of the game, a three-run shot off Ennis in the sixth inning; he also tripled and ended the day with four hits and five RBIs. Brown also had four hits and drove in three runs.

KC had a club record 26 hits–19 singles (nine in the third inning), five doubles and Berroa’s triple and homer–and were 17-for-25 (.680) with runners in scoring position. But the team records for runs and hits and the individual single-game records set or tied by Randa weren’t the only records the KC Royals set in the game. The 25 team RBIs, and 30 total runs in the game, are both club marks; the 30 combined RBIs tied the record set in 1994 against Boston.

Rookie Zack Greinke, who went on to win 60 games in his seven years with KC and has 205 for his excellent career, started and went five innings for his eighth 2004 win; he went 0-2 the rest of the season and finished 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA. Chris George and Mike MacDougal also pitched for the Royals; obviously, neither was eligible for a save.

After shredding Tiger starter Johnson for 11 runs (nine earned), the Royals spread the rest of their damage around, touching Urdaneta for six runs, Dingman for four, Ennis for three and German for two.

The Royals won only eight games the rest of the season and finished last in the AL Central, 14 games behind the fourth-place Tigers and 34 behind first-place Minnesota. The end of the campaign also marked the end of Carlos Beltran‘s seven years in Kansas City (he was traded to Houston in June); Kevin Appier pitched his last game for the team–he broke in with the Royals in 1989, was traded away 10 years later, and returned in 2003.

Jose Bautista hit .200 in 25 at-bats for the club, then found himself with the Pirates as part of a multi-team July 30 trade; he later starred with Toronto.

Designated hitter, Kansas City great and fan favorite Mike Sweeney led Kansas City with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs; Sweeney, Randa, DeJesus, and Ken Harvey all hit .287. Greinke’s eight wins ranked second on the club behind Darrell May and Jimmy Gobble, who both won nine. Jeremy Affeldt had 13 saves and reliever Shawn Camp‘s 3.92 ERA bested Greinke’s 3.97.

The 2004 KC Royals had a terrible season. But for one game in September, they were unstoppable.

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