ST. LOUIS -- Even if you've managed hundreds and hundreds of games like Ned Yost has, the grinders never come easy. And Yost looked absolutely drained Tuesday night. Drained but happy.
"That was a tough one," Yost said. "That was one of those grinder games where you're grinding from the get-go. Everybody -- the defense, the pitching, the offense. But they grinded their way to a win, so it was a great game all around."
Twice his Kansas City club had to come from behind to inflict an 8-7 loss on the St. Louis Cardinals in the second game of the I-70 Series with 41,192 fans at sold-out Busch Stadium. By sweeping the two-game series, the Royals finished their trip to Toronto and St. Louis with a 4-2 record.
The Royals snapped a 7-7 tie in the ninth inning when Omar Infante doubled against reliever Trevor Rosenthal and scored on Eric Hosmer's line-drive single to left. Closer Greg Holland fired off a 1-2-3 inning for his 16th save.
"Confidence is real high right now, so we're going to keep grinding it out," said Royals starting pitcher James Shields.
Shields had to do some grinding himself, because his control was askew, his slider wasn't working and he needed a fabulous double play to escape a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. Shortstop Alcides Escobar cut off Yadier Molina's grounder behind second base and flipped to Infante, who barehanded the ball and fired to Hosmer to end the inning.
"That was big, especially with Molina," Shields said. "He's one of the best hitters in the game and he doesn't hit too many ground balls in general, so to get that double play was big."
But Shields fell behind, 4-0, in the second inning when Kolten Wong, a rookie from Hawaii, blasted a grand slam for his first Major League home run.
"Anytime a team hits a grand slam against you, it's a big blow," Hosmer said. "Especially with our ace on the mound, but he battled for us and ate up some innings."
Shields also went 2-for-2 at the plate, drove in a run and scored one. That made him a .222 (10-for-45) in his career.
With Shields' RBI double and Alex Gordon's three-run homer spurring a six-run fifth inning, the Royals roared into a 6-4 lead against left-hander Jaime Garcia. He also gave up a double to Mike Moustakas, a triple to Escobar and an RBI single to Nori Aoki.
"It looked like at times we were sitting in one spot and the ball was running all over the place," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "When that happens, a lot of times it goes to the wrong place. I think that's what got him."
But the Royals' lead wouldn't last. In the bottom half, the Cardinals scored two more runs, unearned because of Moustakas' error at third.
Shields soldiered on into the sixth but was promptly bombed by Peter Bourjos, who had just entered the game. He pounded a home run to left field and the Cardinals were back on top, 7-6.
After two more batters, Shields was relieved by Aaron Crow, who got the last two outs of the sixth.
Yost felt he was running thin in the bullpen, so he brought in Wilking Rodriguez, a right-hander just up from Triple-A Omaha, to make his Major League debut in the seventh inning. The kid pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
The Royals, though, were still one run behind.
Left-hander Sam Freeman got the first out in the Royals' eighth and right-hander Pat Neshek took over. Salvador Perez singled to center and pinch-hitter Billy Butler beat out a single that second baseman Wong dove to stop in the outfield grass.
Moustakas popped out but Escobar looped a single into center, scoring Perez for a 7-7 tie and sending pinch-runner Jeremy Guthrie -- yes, the pitcher -- to third. Neshek ended the inning on Jarrod Dyson's fly to center.
When, in the ninth inning, Infante dropped his double into the right-field corner and Hosmer rifled his single to left, the question was: Would third-base coach Mike Jirschele wave Infante home? It looked like a close play was in the works.
"You've got to make the outfielder make the play when it's the winning run like that," Yost said. "We were out of pitching, just about. I had Timmy Collins down there and [Francisley] Bueno. But I wanted to give [Michael] Mariot one more day after throwing 65 pitches ... So scoring in the ninth inning was huge for us, to get to Holly."
Infante steamed home, the throw home was off and he didn't even have to slide.
Holland came in to face the middle of the Cardinals' order. He struck out both Matt Holliday and Allen Craig on 3-2 pitches and got Molina to fly out.
"If they come back and tie that game, we're in trouble," Yost said. "So he did a good job of snuffing that out right there and getting us in the clubhouse. But that's why he's leading the league in saves -- because he's good."
The Royals summoned up 13 hits and Gordon banged the fifth home run in his last 56 at-bats.
"It was a great game, back and forth, a lot of clutch hits by both teams," Gordon said. "It was good to see our team get some hits when we needed 'em, so hopefully we can build on this."
That's what Yost is counting on, that his much-maligned and mysteriously absent offense is finally coming to life.
"I feel like we're driving the ball better, we're having better approaches. ... We said all along this is a good-hitting club and it's underachieved, and it's starting to play to its potential now," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.