When the Royals started Tuesday night’s contest with three straight hits, the third of which was a Lorenzo Cain home run, one certainly did not expect Kansas City to enter the ninth inning with just those three runs.
When Houston countered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first because of, among other things, Colby Rasmus. An inning that caused Kris Medlen to throw 30 pitches in his 2016 debut, you could not have believed that Houston would enter the ninth inning with just those two runs.
This was Kris Medlen verus Mike Fiers….in Minute Maid Park….with two pretty decent offensive teams. No way this game was not going to be a 9-8 slugfest, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
Despite allowing 10 baserunners in five innings, Medlen handed that early 3-2 lead to the Royals’ pen after five innings. He survived thanks to some good defense, a rather lucky double play in which Omar Infante swatted a line drive down and picked it up for a quirky twin killing, and seven strikeouts (including a huge two on two out strikeout of Rasmus to end the fifth inning). Pretty? No, but Medlen got a lead to the pen. Really, that is all the Royals (or any team) can reasonably expect from their number five starter.
Kansas City squandered a one out double against Fiers in the second and left Alex Gordon at second in the fourth. They did nothing with a two out walk from Fiers in the fifth and Kendrys Morales erased a Hosmer lead off single by grounding into a double play in the sixth. Like his counterpart, the Astros’ starter benefited from some good fortune and some solid defense to hand just a one run deficit to his own bullpen.
And thus, it brought us all back to the top of the story: the ninth inning. Both bullpens did what they were paid to do – allow nothing. Hochevar, Herrera and Soria blanked Houston for three innings. Will Harris and Luke Gregerson did the same for Houston and we found ourselves in the bottom of the ninth.
Now, I just named five decent to really, really good relief pitchers in the preceding paragraph. Not one of them would be considered on the level of Wade Davis. If those five plus Medlen and Fiers could throw seven and one-half scoreless innings, well then Davis was surely a slam dunk.
Except he was not.
A full-count check swing strikeout started the inning, followed by a full count walk and then ANOTHER full count walk: both coming to the last two hitters in the Houston order. As Craig likes to say, “The Wade Davis Experience” was now enveloping all of us. Jose Altuve flied out, on a full count of course, and after swinging at what was almost surely ball four to get to two outs. I knew there was a reason I liked Altuve!
Now, facing George Springer, who scares me some and is followed by two players who scare me a bunch (Correa and Rasmus), Davis of course went to three balls and two strikes. Springer fouled off a pitch and then, graciously, took Davis’ 33rd pitch of the inning for a strike right down the middle.
Box score wise, this was a win just as the Royals would have drawn up. It did not play out quite as neatly as said box score will indicate. In the end, a win is a win.
Worthy of note….
- After a 33 pitch ninth, no way Wade Davis is available tomorrow. If the Royals need a closer on Wednesday is in Herrera or Soria, both of whom threw 17 pitches on Tuesday?
- It is too early to be concerned about Alex Gordon’s 12 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances, but it is not too early to be moderately annoyed by them. He did single and walk tonight, following up on a two hit night on Monday, so there are signs of life for the oft slow starting left-fielder.
- Combined distance from the strike zone of the two pitches swung at by Salvador Perez and Omar Infante in the ninth inning? Seven feet…..and that is not an exaggeration.
Game three of this four game set is tomorrow night, with Yordano Ventura taking the ball for Kansas City.