ST. LOUIS -- The Kansas City Royals waited a long time between wins. They had no problem waiting to put this one in the books.
Jeff Francoeur and Eric Hosmer combined for three RBIs in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen and the Royals spoiled Michael Wacha’s almost spotless debut, snapping an eight-game losing streak with a rain-delayed 4-2 victory on Thursday night.
“We talk about this streak, we’ve been in every game, we’ve been one hit away, and tonight we got the hit,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Those are games that can get you turned around. Hopefully, that will be the case.”
Hall of Famer George Brett’s debut as interim batting coach was a success and the Royals avoided a four-game sweep despite totaling only four hits in a marathon delayed an hour before the first pitch and another 4 hours, 32 minutes not long after the Royals took the lead with the bases loaded and none out in the top of the ninth.
It took 12 minutes to get the last six outs of a game that would have been a snappy 2 hours, 27 minutes without the rain.
“To get a win and break the streak, hopefully we’ll carry some momentum tomorrow night,” Francoeur said.
From a near capacity crowd of 43,916, a couple hundred fans at most were around when the game scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. CDT ended at 3:14 a.m.
Umpire crew chief Joe West opted for patience and declined to invoke a rule clause in the final season meeting between teams that would have wiped out the top of the ninth and declared the Cardinals 2-1 winners.
“I wasn’t sure we were going to get that game in, and to lose in that fashion after coming back in the ninth inning wouldn’t have been right,” Yost said. “I credit Joe West for hanging in there. I credit their grounds crew for getting the field playable.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak lobbied during the delay for an eight-inning St. Louis win. Matheny said the field was “bad.”
“And I thought our grounds crew did a tremendous job,” Matheny added. “This comes down to one of my guys getting hurt, it’s a big deal.
“Fortunately they got it to where we could play.”
The length of game created a bit of a hardship for that crew, set to work a Cubs day game on Friday. The Royals headed for a weekend series in Texas while the Cardinals are at home Friday night against the Giants.
Matheny paid a hefty price for giving closer Edward Mujica a day off after earning four saves in four days. Francoeur homered on the second pitch from Mitchell Boggs, a curious choice to get the ball in the ninth given season-long woes that left him with a double-digit ERA and included a stint in the minors.
Boggs (0-3) faced two batters, retired neither and was loudly booed by a near-sellout crowd forced into a second rain delay. He was demoted May 3 after a 12.66 ERA and 12 walks in 10 2-3 innings. He has allowed a run in three of four appearances since returning on May 19, and none of the first three outings came with the game on the line.
Matheny said after the game that rookie set-up man Trevor Rosenthal also had been unavailable.
Hosmer, who had one RBI the previous 10 games, bounced a bases-loaded double over a drawn-in infield off Victor Marte.
The 21-year-old Wacha, who allowed a run on two hits in seven innings, was the third rookie to debut as a starter for the Cardinals and came close to matching John Gast and Tyler Lyons as first-game winners. Wacha retired the first 13 batters and set down the side in order every inning except the fifth, when Lorenzo Cain doubled with one out and scored on Elliott Johnson’s single.
Wacha made the Cardinals’ fastest jump from draft day to the majors in 25 years after getting picked in the first round last June.
Louis Coleman (1-0) allowed a walk in 1 1-3 innings and Greg Holland finished for his eighth save in 10 chances and first since May 1. Holland’s blown save on May 6 against the White Sox was his only other chance this month.
Francoeur had been batting .156 in May and didn’t start for the second straight game, entering in a double switch in the seventh. He ended the Royals’ 59-inning slump without a homer with his second of the season and first since April 10.
Allen Craig and David Freese had two-out RBI singles in the first off Jeremy Guthrie to give the Cardinals the lead. They left the bases loaded in the second, wasting a single by Wacha in his first career at-bat, and stranded two in the fourth.
Wacha had a chance to score from second on Carlos Beltran’s hit, but the Cardinals didn’t risk a play at the plate with the bases loaded, one out and the heart of the order coming up. Matt Holliday grounded into a force play at the plate and Craig grounded out to end the inning.
NOTES: Wacha is the eighth rookie pitcher to suit up for St. Louis this year and seventh to play. Reliever Michael Blazek was optioned to the minors earlier in the day without appearing in a game. ... Shelby Miller (5-3, 2.02) opposes the Giants’ Matt Cain (4-2, 5.00) in the opener of a three-game series Friday. The Royals begin a three-game set at Texas with Wade Davis (3-4, 5.71) opposing Derek Holland (4-2, 2.97). ... Cardinals reliever Randy Choate was the winner Wednesday for his first decision since July 24, 2011, a span of 103 appearances. It’s the third-longest streak in major league history.