The ninth inning of this game had no business being remotely interesting, let alone with the bases loaded, two down, in a one-run game.
Yet here we were mere moments ago, watching helplessly as Scott Alexander loaded the bases after Kelvin Herrera was pulled—again—due to injury—again—leaving Alexander to clean up the mess.
And Alexander delivered. I’m so mad that overshadows Mike Moustakas, but we’ll get to him in a second. Let’s talk about how the ninth inning went all derpy again.
Let’s start with the fact that Kelvin Herrera clearly isn’t right.
Ten days ago against Colorado, this same situation unfolded. Herrera’s velocity fell off, his command deserted him and he walked off with Nick Kenney as Alexander finished off the game.
He’d faced eight batters since then prior to tonight, none in a save situation, and was… fine. The velocity was fine. He didn’t throw many breaking pitches, but 97 mph is still 97 mph.
Tonight’s velocity didn’t drop off precipitously, and he didn’t throw a single breaking pitch. But he still lost command, and he still loaded the bases and gave up a two-run single and Salvador Perez still summoned the trainer out to have a look at Herrera, and Alexander still had to finish it off, in a bad situation no less (sacks full, two down, on the road).
So maybe Ned should let Herrera cool his jets for a little while. I know the Royals are technically in the Wild Card race, by the loosest definition of the word, but is it worth Herrera’s long-term health for the four percent chance of getting into the Wild Card play-in game?
So the ninth was a gasoline-fueled disaster. Max Kepler led off by reaching on an error. Then Herrera got Mitch Garver to pop up and Kennys Vargas to ground out.
So two down, man on second. Should be a pretty easy finish, right?
Well… no. Zack Granite (real name, apparently) walked on five pitches, then Brian Dozier got nailed on the elbow with a pitch.
Bases loaded, nobody out—in seven pitches, we went from “Game in hand” to “touch-and-go”. And Herrera hadn’t allowed a hit.
Until Joe Mauer singled up the middle to score Kepler and Granite and pull Minnesota to within a run.
And still Herrera wasn’t pulled, languishing for three pitches to Jorge Polanco—all balls—before being lifted.
Since I’ve now spent 400 words on the ninth inning—easily the worst part of this game from the Royals perspective—let’s talk about No. 36.
— Today in the MLB (@TodayintheMLB) September 2, 2017
Mike Moustakas lasered his season’s 36th home run into the right field stands to tie Steve Balboni’s franchise single-season record, part of a five-run third inning which ultimately held up for the Good Guys. He’s got a month left to get the record; I think he’s gonna get there, guys. Just a feeling.
Also having a good night for the Royals was Melky Cabrera, who doubled twice, including a run-scoring double to drive in Lorenzo Cain (who drove in Alcides Escobar) prior to Moustakas’ homer. And Polanco was no slouch for the Twins, homering the first off Jason Hammel and scoring Mauer on a sac fly in the third.
Branond Moss’ 18th (seriously) home run of the season wrapped up the Royals scoring before everything went sideways in the ninth. Thank God for Scott Alexander, right?
(Never thought I’d see that in a sentence in 2017.)
Onelki Garcia toes the slab Saturday for the Royals opposite Kyle Gibson. First pitch from Target Field is 6:10 p.m. (CT).