HOUSTON --After struggling early this season, Kansas City's offense finally broke through with one big inning, and it reminded Alex Gordon of another much more important eighth inning the Royals had in Houston two years ago.
Cheslor Cuthbert hit a solo homer early and Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez both went deep during a six-run eighth, helping the Royals rally for a 7-3 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
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The Royals trailed 2-1 and managed just two hits off Dallas Keuchel before Luke Gregerson (0-1) took over for the eighth. Gordon put Kansas City ahead with a two-run double, Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI single and then Hosmer's first homer this season extended the lead to 6-2. Two pitches later, Perez sent an 88 mph fastball into the seats in left field to chase Gregerson.
Some Royals said the inning conjured thoughts of the five-run eighth they used against the Astros in Game 4 of the 2015 AL Division Series to rally for a 9-6 win and avoid elimination. Kansas City won Game 5 to advance and went on to win the World Series.
"We might have mentioned it a little bit in the dugout, just joking around having fun with it," Gordon said. "Yeah there were some jokes, but it was a good inning for us."
Danny Duffy (1-0) allowed eight hits and two runs over seven innings for the win, and the Royals took their second straight from Houston after being swept in a three-game series at Minnesota to open the season.
The six runs Kansas City scored in the eighth were one more than the Royals managed in the three games combined against the Twins.
"We were just lacking that one big hit to get things going," Hosmer said. "So that just broke the ice for everybody and you can just sense the energy change in the dugout and it just freed everybody up from that point on."
The bullpen collapse wasted a solid start by Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner. He has yielded just four hits and two runs over 14 innings in his first two starts after struggling last season.
Manager A.J. Hinch said Gregerson didn't look like himself on Saturday night.
"He didn't look like he was executing his pitches," Hinch said. "He didn't say much on the bench, but the results are what they are, and it was just a bad night for him."
Brian McCann gave Houston a 1-0 lead when he sent Duffy's first pitch of the third inning into the right field stands.
The Astros had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth after a walk by Carlos Correa and singles by Carlos Beltran and Yuli Gurriel. Marwin Gonzalez's single scored Correa to make it 2-0, but McCann grounded into a double play to limit the damage.
Keuchel had allowed just one hit when Cuthbert homered to left to start the fifth inning and cut Houston's lead to 2-1.
Astros: Collin McHugh, who started the season on the 10-day disabled list after dealing with what he called "dead arm" this spring, will not throw for the next six weeks after injuring his pitching elbow during a rehab start on Thursday. McHugh pitched just one inning at Triple-A Fresno before feeling tightness leaving the game. There is no timetable for his return, but he will be re-evaluated after six weeks.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost and several players raved about the fielding of Keuchel , who has won a Gold Glove Award in each of the last three seasons. Keuchel's only miscue in that area on Saturday came when he overthrew first base on a ball hit by Paulo Orlando in the fifth.
"It was unbelievable," Yost said. "And the one play he made the error on, if he wouldn't have slipped, he would have made that play, too. He's one of the best fielders that there are."
Royals: Right-hander Nate Karns will make his first start and second appearance of the season in the finale on Sunday. Karns allowed four runs, two hits and two walks in a relief appearance in a 9-1 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.
Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers (1-0) is scheduled to make his second start on Sunday. McCullers yielded five hits and one run in six innings of a 2-1 win over Seattle on Tuesday.
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