You can look at this game in two ways. With the two lowest-scoring teams in the American League hooking up in a 12:10 local time start, runs were likely going to be few and far between. Or, you could credit the pitchers in this game (well, most of them; more on that shortly) for doing their jobs well. After all, as the Royals proved last night, you still have to get those guys out. Let’s give credit where it’s due. Kansas City’s Ian Kennedy and Tampa Bay’s Drew Smyly pitched very well.
The Royals pitcher who didn’t do his job? That would be Joakim Soria, whose dreadful season continues. Called upon to protect a 2-0 lead in the eighth, Soria surrendered a single and a walk. He struck out Evan Longoria, and it briefly looked like he might get out of the trouble. Nope. With a 1-1 count, Soria threw a changeup to Brad Miller. Thigh-high. Right where it could be destroyed. And it was. The three-run bomb gave Tampa Bay the lead and ultimately the win. Soria now has a sparkling 4.50 ERA and has allowed eight home runs in 46 innings.
Even though pitcher wins are silly, it is a shame Kennedy has little to show for his effort. Kennedy struck out nine Tampa Bay hitters, walked four, and allowed just one hit in his six innings. I suppose the only thing you could quibble with was his pitch efficiency. He left after 106 pitches, when Cheslor Cuthbert made an error on a Steven Souza Jr. grounder to begin the seventh inning. But “six shutout innings and turning things over to the bullpen” is pretty much what the Royals planned on doing this season, so a tip of the cap to Kennedy on this effort.
Royals’ Offense Offensive
Let’s not assign all the blame to Soria. Back in late May, the Royals battered Smyly for eight runs on 12 hits in four innings. That was a different Royals team, I guess. On this day, Smyly was nearly untouchable. In seven innings, he struck out 10 Royals and allowed just five hits and one walk. All of Kansas City’s offense came in the fourth, when Alex Gordon jumped on a Smyly pitch and hit his eighth homer of the year, and rather unbelievably his first ever at Tropicana Field. The Royals followed all that futility up by blowing a golden scoring chance in the top of the eighth. Alcides Escobar and Cheslor Cuthbert started the inning with singles. After Eric Hosmer’s groundout moved the runners up, Tampa Bay elected to intentionally walk Kendrys Morales. It worked because Rays reliever Brad Boxberger struck out Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon to end the inning. And of course, they ended the game with two runners in scoring position.
Royals fans can relive the 2015 ALCS as the Toronto Blue Jays come to Kansas City for a weekend series. In fact, if you still have some of those games on your DVR, you might be better served to watch them. If you want to watch live baseball, it begins at 7:10 pm tomorrow night with Dillon Gee on the mound.