KANSAS CITY -- The script writer of late-inning heroics keeps dreaming up happy endings for the Royals.
This one was a dramatic dandy. Melky Cabrera bounced a single up the middle in the 12th inning to score Chris Getz for a 7-6 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday night as 12,641 fans whooped it up at Kauffman Stadium.
Getz opened the 12th with a single up the middle against reliever Tony Pena and advanced to second on Mike Aviles' sacrifice bunt. Then came Cabrera's walk-off hit, sending the Royals celebrating -- again -- at home plate.
"I didn't expect to be the hero," Cabrera said.
Who expected any of the Royals to be a hero after they fell behind, 4-0, after the first four White Sox batters in the game had scored?
The Royals had just won three straight games in their last at-bat over the Angels during the weekend. Now it's four in a row for the American League Central leaders, the second straight in extra innings. This is just the third time in Royals' history that the team has won four straight games in its last at-bat and that's a franchise record.
"It doesn't matter, man, as long as you win 'em, that's all that counts," manager Ned Yost said.
Heck, last year's Royals team never even won four games in a row, never mind how.
"Wow!" Getz said. "Well, here we go. Ned talked about this in Spring Training. When you get that winning attitude, you get used to winning. All of sudden, you just expect to win and that's it. There are plenty of doubters out there, no one's giving us much of a chance, but what do we have to lose? We've got that good feeling and we'll just ride it out."
The Royals caught a break in the 12th when White Sox pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge was caught off second base by pitcher Jeremy Jeffress. In a rundown at third base, Lillibridge was initially called safe by umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. But second-base ump Bob Davidson ruled that third baseman Aviles had tagged Lillibridge on the back and he was the second out.
"Hunter thought that Mike had the ball in his hand and tagged him with his glove," Yost said. "He got clarification from Bob Davidson and Bob saw it, so they changed the call."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen protested briefly but didn't have much of a case since Lillibridge had trotted away from the scene.
Then, shortstop Alcides Escobar ended the inning with a brilliant play on Alex Rios' grounder deep into the hole.
"I told you guys, you ain't seen nothing yet on that kid," Yost told reporters. "He can make some plays that are astonishing. ... I've seen him make plays I didn't think a human was capable of making."
Billy Butler, following what's fast becoming a regular story line for the Royals, blasted a two-run homer in the eighth inning for a 6-6 tie. His drive into the left-field pool under the waterfall came after Alex Gordon drilled a double off White Sox reliever Chris Sale.
"I made a bad pitch at a bad time," Sale said. "[Gavin] Floyd went out there and pitched his butt off. He deserved to win that game. You can't fall behind a guy like that. I have to go out there and fill up the zone against him."
Not only did the Royals match a team record with their late heroics, they became the first Major League team to win four straight in its last at-bat since the Mariners did it five straight times on June 8-12, 2007. The Royals previously did it four times on April 10-13, 2000, and April 5-8, 1989, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's contagious," Getz said. "Once you get that feeling, it changes things. It's just an unexplained momentum changer -- case in point, the last few games. It really is crazy."
It was evident early that this would be no pitching duel. That became obvious in the first inning when the White Sox hammered out a 4-2 lead, the first four batters scoring against Royals starter Luke Hochevar.
Juan Pierre led off with a triple that rolled to the right-center-field wall and scored on Gordon Beckham's single. Adam Dunn walked and Paul Konerko almost reached the Royals Hall of Fame building with a three-run drive over the left-field bullpen. Rios singled before Hochevar starting getting outs.
"They came out swinging and I've got to recognize that earlier and start mixing in a little earlier," Hochevar said. "But before I knew it, early in the count, they were hacking pretty good. But once I settled in, we started mixing a little better and got through it."
Gordon provided the Royals with some immediate bounce-back, lofting a home run to center field after Cabrera singled. Gordon finished with three hits and is 7-for-11 with a homer, three doubles and six runs in the last two games.
The victim of the homer was Floyd who, an inning later, was looking at a 4-4 tie. That came about thanks to thievery. Escobar singled, Matt Treanor walked and, after watching two outs, they pulled off a double steal. Cabrera grounded a single to right field and both scored.
Hochevar followed his untidy beginning with four scoreless innings until the sixth when Carlos Quentin singled and Ramirez sliced a triple to the right-field corner. Brent Morel's attempt to squeeze Ramirez home was foiled when his bunt rolled foul along the first-base line. But Ramirez scored anyway when Aviles muffed Pierre's two-out hopper behind the mound for an error, giving the White Sox a 6-4 lead.
That was Hochevar's last inning and the bullpen took over to piece together six scoreless innings. Rookie Jeffress got the victory, his first for the Royals and the second of his career.
"The pitching has been tremendous and kept us in the game and allowed the hitters to be able to do what we've done in coming back," Cabrera said. "There's been some exceptional hitting by Gordon, [Jeff] Francoeur, Getzy and my teammates."
It's been late-lighting finishes, a 4-1 record and a stunning start to the season.
"We're driving to at least show people that we're here and ready to play," Jeffress said. "We're battlers from one to nine [innings] and maybe more."
Yeah, like 12 or 13.
"You could definitely get used to that," Aviles said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.