Kansas City Royals get 50th win. They survived near collapse, thanks to this reliever

Kansas City Royals reliever James McArthur was fired up as he walked off the mound in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Guardians.

His expression was warranted. As he walked back into the dugout, he was welcomed by a cascade of high fives and inaudible sighs of relief.

McArthur had just saved the Royals from a total collapse. The Guardians were rolling after scoring four unanswered runs. But McArthur denied them of further damage by striking out the side and stranding two runners in scoring position.

The Royals escaped with a 7-6 win.

“One-run game and I knew I had a base open,” McArthur said. “I just tried to throw my best stuff down in the zone. I really tried to go for strikeouts or weak contact. I tried to get ahead with good stuff and kind of see how the at-bat plays out.”

McArthur struck out Guardians trio Josh Naylor, Kole Calhoun and Ramon Laureano. He has now retired 31 of 32 batters since being recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Sept. 1.

KC improved to 50-102 and has won six of its last seven games. With 10 games left, the Royals are four losses from tying their worst-ever mark for a season. They must go 7-3 to avoid tying that mark (106 losses) and 6-4 to avoid breaking it.

“What’s really impressive to me about that is Josh Naylor doesn’t strike out very much,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “For a guy with his power, he finds a way to put the ball in play. To strike him out really set the tone there.”

The eighth inning was a byproduct of an offensive affair on Tuesday night.

Both teams combined for 23 hits in the latest chapter of their American League Central rivalry. The Royals jumped out to a 7-2 lead and seemed in full control of the game.

Royals outfielder MJ Melendez led the charge. He hit a two-run homer in the first and made a nice defensive grab in left field. Rookie infielder Nick Loftin was also heavily involved with two RBI singles on the night.

The runs aided “bulk” reliever Alec Marsh. The rookie hurler allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. He allowed five hits and struck out two batters.

Still, the Guardians wouldn’t go away. Cleveland powered back to pull within one run late in the contest. Guardians duo Bo Naylor and Steven Kwan sparked the offensive comeback. Naylor hit a solo homer and Kwan added a two-run triple.

Royals reliever Collin Snider shut the door and earned the save.

KC will go for the sweep on Wednesday afternoon.

Missed previous games of the series?

Home win: Royals secure 6-4 victory over Guardians in series opener

Roster move: Royals place veteran pitchers Brady Singer & Brad Keller on injured list

Here are more notables from Tuesday’s game:

MJ Melendez hits 15th home run

Melendez lifted the Royals’ offense early. In the first inning, Melendez hit a two-run homer off Logan Allen to give KC a 2-0 advantage.

Allen challenged Melendez with a 77.6 mph sweeper. However, Melendez was ready and sent the baseball over the right-field wall. The blast traveled 410 feet and had a 101.1 mph exit velocity.

It was a special moment, as Melendez homered against his childhood friend.

“That’s pretty cool to be able to finally get him,” Melendez said.

Melendez has hit nine home runs since the All-Star break. In that span, he has recorded 23 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs.

Later, Melendez also showed his defensive skills. He took away a base hit from Laureano in the third inning by making a sliding catch in left field.

Melendez finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs in the game.

Tyler Cropley records first career RBI

Royals catcher Tyler Cropley will always remember his first MLB game. He drew the start against the Guardians with his family and friends in attendance.

Cropley made a sizable impact in the Royals lineup. In the fifth inning, Cropley hit a sacrifice fly that drove in Royals teammate Nelson Velázquez.

“I had some nerves out there in the beginning, which everyone said you would, but they calmed down once the game got rolling,” Cropley said.

The Royals extended their lead to 7-2 in the frame. Cropley, who is in his second stint with the team, was recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Monday.

Cropley is the ninth Royals player to make his MLB debut this season.

In the eighth inning, Cropley also recorded his first MLB hit. He plans to place the baseball in his home near other memorable items.

“I’m glad my family was here to be a part of it,” Cropley said.

What’s next: The Royals conclude their three-game series against the Guardians. Zack Greinke will oppose Cleveland hurler Lucas Giolito on Wednesday afternoon.