In each of the last nine games the Royals had played, the game ended with them meeting in the middle of the field to give congratulatory high fives. Simply leaving the field following a game had become unfamiliar, but that’s what happened in this one when the Marlins halted the Royals nine-game winning streak with a 3-0 victory that was highlighted by the Royals missing enough chances to fill a full week of baseball.
Dillon Gee took the loss and the numbers didn’t look pretty in the end, but he was excellent through five innings, allowing just one hit. That hit was to his counterpart, Jose Fernandez, and it didn’t even leave the infield. But he ran into a wall in the sixth with a rally started by that same man, Fernandez. Three runs later, the Marlins had the three-run lead that would remain until the game’s conclusion.
There were enough scoring opportunities early that the Royals couldn’t convert that they could have placed ads in the missed connections section on Craigslist. In the first, the Royals had two runners on with one out. They didn’t score. In the second, they loaded the bases with one out. They didn’t score. In the fourth, they had a runner on second with one out. They didn’t score. In the sixth, they had runners on first and second with nobody out. They didn’t score. In the seventh, they had a runner on first with one out. They didn’t score.
They had one more shot to score. It came in the ninth when the Marlins turned to their relatively new closer, Fernando Rodney. Alex Gordon started the inning by hitting a ball up the middle at 100 MPH that made Rodney wonder if he’d been hit. He hadn’t. Then Alcides Escobar hit a line drive that Adeiny Hechavarria somehow dove to snag.
That was big because Cheslor Cuthbert pinch hit next and drew a walk. Unfortunately, Kendrys Morales popped out and even though Paulo Orlando singled to load the bases, the game ended with a Christian Colon soft lineout to shortstop. The final missed opportunity.
It should be noted that, in addition to his two hits, Fernandez was very, very good on the mound in this one. He worked around trouble, but he did so because he had the strikeout pitch working and was able to get through seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.
Maybe the biggest missed opportunity was in simply missing out on the win with an Indians loss earlier in the day. The Royals remain 7.5 out of the American League Central with 36 games to play. At the completion of the game and the publishing of this RECAP, the Orioles were leading the Nationals, so the Royals likely have fallen back in that race as well.
Orlando Swings and Misses
It was a day to forget for Paulo Orlando in this one. He led off the game with a strikeout. With the bases loaded and one out in the second, he struck out. He led off the fifth with a strikeout. And with a runner on first and one out in the seventh, he struck out. He came up in the ninth inning with two on and two out. He had an infield hit to load the bases. So that was good, but when a 35 foot single is your highlight, that’s a rough night. For those who lost count, that’s five at bats and four strikeouts for the Royals leadoff hitter.
Orlando is now hitting .224/.262/.345 with 19 strikeouts in 13 games since being moved to the top of the order (12 in the leadoff spot and one hitting second) and that includes going 8 for 14 in the three-game set in Minnesota. It appears he’s being pitched to his weaknesses more, meaning lots of good breaking balls out of the strike zone. And if this one is any indication, that won’t stop any time soon. Hopefully he can either figure it out or the Royals can make a change at the top of the lineup…again.
Bullpen Streak Roars On
By throwing three scoreless innings in the first game of the series, the Royals set a new team record for consecutive scoreless innings by the bullpen. They set a new record in this one with 2.2 more scoreless innings. That puts them at 34.2 consecutive scoreless innings now, which is pretty good.
What’s been most impressive about this run is that it’s not just Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm doing the work. It’s the middle guys too. Eight different relievers have thrown at least two scoreless innings since the last time the Royals bullpen gave up a run. That’s a credit to the bullpen built by Dayton Moore and, whether people want to admit this or not, the way Ned Yost has used that bullpen. The winning streak may have ended, but the bullpen’s scoreless inning streak did not.
The Royals and Marlins end their series tomorrow with a matchup of Edinson Volquez vs. Tom Koehler. The Royals are looking to win their sixth consecutive series. Remember, winning every series without a single sweep will get the Royals to 90 wins.