KC Royals: The game The Moose really went loose

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

September 12, 2015, found the KC Royals in a mini-slump, losers of seven of their last 10. A pleasant Baltimore afternoon set the stage for a game with the Orioles, who’d beaten the Royals 14-8 the night before; Kansas City’s mission wasn’t to panic, though, but instead to simply get back on track before embarking on the second straight trip to the playoffs their comfortable 10-game American League Central lead made certain.

The setting was ripe for a course correction. Starting for the Royals that day was Yordano Ventura, the winner of six of his last seven starts who’d struck out 11 Orioles in six innings two weeks before. Lorenzo Cain was on an early September tear—two homers the previous night gave him four for the month and, together with two singles, a .364 nine-game average. Kendrys Morales was also battering September with a .390/.395/.659 line and 11 RBIs. Ben Zobrist was hitting .315 since coming over from Oakland in a trade deadline deal.

And Eric Hosmer, homerless and hitting just .235 for the month and Mike Moustakas, with a .238 September average, were due.

But Ventura wasn’t as effective this time around as he’d been two weeks before. He fanned five Orioles in 5.2 innings, but gave up four runs on eight hits. Cain had one hit in five at-bats. Morales doubled and walked twice. Morales collected a hit and a walk. Zobrist had a pair of singles, Hosmer one.

The Moose, much to the delight of the Royals and their fans, went loose.

Quite loose.

Mike Moustakas recorded one of the biggest games in KC Royals history.

Moustakas’ game began quietly: Baltimore starter Chris Tillman struck him out swinging in the second inning, then retired him on a pop fly to begin the Royals’ fifth.

Tillman, having given up a walk, two singles and a run early in the sixth, wasn’t around when Moustakas came to the plate later in the inning. Facing Brain Matusz after the Oriole reliever walked Morales to load the bases, Moustakas tied the game with a two-run single that scored Cain and Hosmer. Salvador Perez immediately gave KC a 6-4 lead with his own two-run single.

Moustakas’ two-RBI hit turned out to be just a calling card. The Royals had increased their lead by another run in the seventh when he faced struggling southpaw T.J. McFarland who, after yielding singles to Gordon and Zobrist and a run-scoring double to Cain, got an out before intentionally walking Morales to face left-hander Moustakas.

Betting the lefty-lefty matchup backfired. Moustakas hammered a grand slam to give Kansas City an 11-4 lead and knock McFarland out of the game. The blast gave Moose a 2-for-4, six-RBI outing.

He wasn’t done.

With Morales at second and Hosmer at third in the ninth, Steve Johnson fed Moustakas another homer, this one a three-run shot that gave the Royals a 14-6 lead and the winning score.

Moustakas finished the contest 3-for-5 with nine RBIs, the most runs any Royal has ever driven in in one game. The outburst ignited his bat—he hit .273 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in September, then .304 with three RBIs in Kansas City’s winning World Series effort.

One of the most popular and revered players in club history, Moustakas played two more seasons in Kansas City before testing free agency after a 2017 campaign in which he hit a then-club record 38 homers. Unable to find a deal to his liking, he returned to the Royals in 2018 but the club moved him to Milwaukee near the trade deadline for Jorge Lopez and Brett Phillips.

There was hope Moose would return, but he re-signed with the Brewers for a season, then moved on to Cincinnati where he’s in the middle of a four-year $64 million contract. A bit of Internet chatter after the 2020 season raised the prospect of a KC-Moustakas reunion, but the chances of him playing for the Royals again are remote at best.

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It’s been over six years since Mike Moustakas gave fans a record-setting nine-RBI game they’ll never forget.