This was an elimination game for the Royals. I know, I know. The Central hasn’t been in play since mid-June. Yes, June. As wretched as July was, the Royals gave up five and a half games in the standings from June 21 to June 28, a period where they went from a half game behind to six full games back. August saw them crawl back to five and a half back, but they could never recover from that week that opened with a trip to Citi Field and ended with the Royals losing two of three to Houston and splitting a pair with the Cardinals.
Anyway, entering the game Wednesday against the Indians, the Royals elimination number was two. That meant a Royals win was necessary to hang on to the title of reigning AL Central Champions for at least another evening.
In Ian Kennedy’s 10 previous starts, he had held the opposition to a .226 average. That number is going to go up after he worked around base runners all evening. One in the first, two in the second, two more in the third, two more in the fourth, three (all doubles) in the fifth, and two more in the sixth before he was finally removed. That’s twelve base runners total via 10 hits and two walks. It was a minor miracle he was able to navigate with just three runs allowed.
And continuing a recent trend, Kennedy kept the ball in the yard. While he’s matched a career high with 31 home runs allowed, he’s now surrendered just five long balls in his last 12 starts. That’s a helluva adjustment. If you’re trying to see the bright side of things heading into next season.
The Royals fired up the singles train in the third. Four consecutive two-out singles plated two runs. Kendrys Morales continued to scorch, driving a 100 mph liner to opposite field drive for the first run. Salvador Perez followed with one recorded at 98 mph right back up the box for the second.
The Royals had just two other hits the entire evening.
The Salvy Show
Perez provided one of the defensive highlights of the night, gunning down Rajai Davis in the sixth. Up to that point, Davis had been successful in 40 of 45 attempts. He got a decent jump, but Perez received a perfect pitch from Kennedy, up and out of the zone, and gunned him down for his career-best 30th caught stealing of the season.
No surprise Perez has worn down offensively again, but his footwork behind the plate has really improved and continues to be an asset.
For added defensive bonus, Perez was basically a one man rundown machine in the eighth, fielding a throw from Jarrod Dyson and getting Carlos Santana in a rundown between first and second. Perez broke toward the space between the bags, chasing Santana toward second, before giving up the ball to Alcides Escobar. Perez then had to retreat to first, as there was no one on that side of the field. Score it 8-2-6-2 on the putout. Something you don’t see every game.
Offensively, it’s been a struggle. Again. Yet, he cut the Indians lead to one in the ninth with a massively high blast to left. According to Statcast, it left his bat at 105 mph with a launch angle of 46 degrees. I know they measure these kinds of things, and I haven’t seen confirmation, but I would assume there aren’t a lot of baseballs that leave the barrel at 46 degrees that travel that far.
In a fitting conclusion to the Royals perch atop the Central, Terrance Gore was caught stealing in the ninth. Gore, who was so valuable as a pinch runner in past Septembers and Octobers, had been caught only once before – in the ALDS last year against Houston when he popped off the bag trying to steal third. It took a perfect throw to cut him down. Such is life for the 2016 Royals.
The Royals finish off their visit to Cleveland by sending Jason Vargas to the mound to avoid the sweep.