Kansas City, Mo. Elliot Johnson had a bead on the grounder until the moment it slipped between his legs.
The Kansas City Royals were clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh inning when Johnson, filling in for the injured Mike Moustakas at third base, let a groundball off the bat of the Miami Marlins’ Christian Yelich reach left field for an error.
Donovan Solano and Logan Morrison followed with RBI groundouts Wednesday, giving Miami the go-ahead runs in what turned into a 5-2 victory over the Royals.
“Just a squib play and the ball’s spinning a thousand miles an hour,” Johnson said. “I should have gone and gotten it. I didn’t and it cost us the game.”
Solano and Morrison tacked on a couple more runs off the Royals bullpen in the ninth, but they turned out to be moot. Marlins reliever Dan Jennings (2-3) got through the sixth inning, A.J. Ramos worked the seventh and eighth, and Steve Cishek handled the ninth for his 26th save.
Cishek struck out Alex Gordon with runners on first and second to end the game.
“We all realized that we needed to win this game. It was a big game for us,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “It would have been big to win this series.”
The Royals were rolling when it began. They’d won 17 of 20 after taking the opener Monday night to climb into playoff contention. Now, they limp off to play five games in four days against AL Central-leading Detroit after their first defeat in eight series.
“It’s a tough one to swallow, but at the same time, we’ve got to look ahead,” Hosmer said. “We’ve got five games in Detroit. We can make up some serious ground. There’s a lot of time. We’ve got to forget about this one and be ready to go tomorrow.”
The Royals, blanked 1-0 in 10 innings Tuesday night, got off to a good start when Hosmer doubled in the first inning and eventually scored on a single by Salvador Perez.
The Royals failed to take advantage of the erratic Jacob Turner, though. The Marlins starter walked six without a strikeout in five-plus innings, but Kansas City could only squeeze one more run out of him on a groundout by David Lough in the fourth.
“He was able to battle,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “We talk about in the learning process, there are times when you’re going to have to battle to give your team a chance to win.”
The Marlins got their first run when Justin Ruggiano drove in Adeiney Hechavarria in the top half of the fourth, but they were otherwise hamstrung by Royals starter Ervin Santana. He dodged eight hits and two walks over six innings to hand his bullpen the lead.
With little help from the defense, they couldn’t make it stand. Tim Collins (2-6) gave up a double to start the seventh, Johnson booted a grounder and the Marlins took advantage.
“We’re in the middle of the hunt and they’re not going to tolerate that sort of stuff,” Johnson said of his error. “It wasn’t as easy as it seems, (but) still I should have made it. I’m playing in the big leagues and you’ve got to make those kinds of plays.”
Solano and Morrison each finished with two RBIs for the Marlins, while Ruggiano finished 3 for 4 to end his franchise-record 0-for-42 hitting slump.
The Miami outfielder even kept the ball that he singled in the first inning.
“I wouldn’t wish that on anybody in the world,” said Ruggiano, whose last hit came on July 12. “I’m just glad it’s over with. Now I can get back to doing what I do.”
NOTES: The Royals acquired INF-OF Emilio Bonifacio from the Blue Jays for a player to be named or cash. They made space for him on the 40-man roster by transferring INF Miguel Tejada (right calf strain) to the 60-day DL. ... Johnson went 0 for 3 for the Royals, extending his slump to 0 for 30. He doesn’t have a hit since July 6. ... Turner is still winless in 12 career road starts. ... The Marlins’ previous four wins this month had been shutouts.