I wrote a very similar column last season. This is the column that comes out when October is going to be the off-season and not the post-season for the Kansas City Royals.
Frankly, I wrote something not far from this last week when we explored what keeping Wade Davis might have meant to the 2017 Royals. You might remember that I speculated there were three games that one could really, really put your finger on as losses that turn into wins with Davis closing versus Kelvin Herrera. Since I wrote that column, there has been another game we can add to the total.
Sadly, no matter how eloquently it was portrayed, Wade Davis is not a member of the 2017 team. Instead we have Jorge Soler. As much as we might want to, there is nothing that we can do to make Whit Merrifield the opening day second baseman. We cannot even ripple time and space enough to keep Danny Duffy from getting hurt or Ian Kennedy from turning into a pumpkin.
That said, for all their faults, the Royals still linger three and one-half games back of a Wild Card spot that no one really seems to want to win. Wheels are falling off, oil is leaking and yet Kansas City could be comfortably in the post-season if they had just managed to win one more game each month. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Just one stinking game per month.
It was a beautiful night on April 18th when the Royals lost to San Francisco 2-1 in 11 innings. Jason Hammel gave up one run over six innings. The firm of Moylan, Wood, Soria and Herrera combined to toss three scoreless innings. Scott Alexander pitched a scoreless tenth and got the first two outs in the 11th before surrendering a double and a single to give the Giants the lead and twenty minutes later the win.
Remember this game? Did you remember the Royals had 15 baserunners and scored ONE run? You want to talk about missed opportunities? This is the game for you.
Tied at one in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals got a lead-off walk from Whit Merrifield, who had just been called up and was starting in right field. After a Mondesi sacrifice bunt, Alex Gordon was hit by a pitch. Moustakas lined out, but Lorenzo Cain pulled a ball into the hole for an infield single. The bases were loaded, but Eric Hosmer ended the inning on a groundout.
Move to the bottom of the ninth. Brandon Moss singled with one out. Whit Merrifield walked with two out. Two on, two out, Raul Mondesi strikes out. An inning later, Moustakas and Cain hit back to back singles with one out only to have Hosmer ground into a replay aided inning ending double play. (Craig Brown despises replay, by the way).
Down a run going to the bottom of the 11th, a Perez lead-off single was followed by two strikeouts. Merrifield kept hope alive with a single. Two on, two out, Mondesi up. Do I even need to tell you what happened?
Just one game in a dismal April, right? It would be a nice one to have back.
If you are looking for one game in May, I am going to give you two choices and you can pick.
Let’s start with a 1-0 loss to Cleveland on a Sunday, May 7th. Mike Clevinger (who has had a nice season) was making his first start of the year and the Royals had Danny Duffy on the hill. Despite throwing 50 strikes and 41 balls, the Royals managed ONE hit against Clevinger. They failed to take advantage of the four walks he allowed (two of which lead off an inning) before Cleveland’s bullpen finished out the final three and one-half innings. It should be noted, however, that the day was not done before Cody Allen hit Cain to lead off the inning, walked Soler with two outs and ended the game on a long fly ball by Brandon Moss.
If that May home loss seemed doesn’t sit right with you, how about another loss in Kansas City to Detroit on May 31st? Here, the Royals scored three in the first, but thanks to a rocky Ian Kennedy outing found themselves down 6-3 entering the bottom of the fourth. Cheslor Cuthbert and Alcides Escobar combined to plate a run before the inning was ended when Escobar was caught stealing.
However, having chased the Tigers’ starter, Matt Boyd, in the fourth, Kansas City proceeded to hit EIGHT straight ground ball outs against Warwick Saupold. Eight. Warwick Saupold. Feels like a missed opportunity.
Kansas City enjoyed a fine June, but there is a game that would be nice to have back. The opponent is again Detroit, this time in Comerica Park on June 27th. Once again, the Royals plate three runs in the first inning by opening the game against Justin Verlander with FIVE straight hits. Further damage was avoided as Verlander used just nine pitches to get three outs with two runners on base.
Matt Strahm was the starter that day for Kansas City and he was not good, but the Royals still held a 3-1 lead when they started the third inning with a single and walk only to see Verlander escape the inning via strikeout and two line outs. The Tigers took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of that frame and added another run in the fourth.
Verlander would work into the eighth, leaving after Hosmer led off the inning with a single. Bruce Rondon would strike out Perez, but give up a single to Moustakas. Two on, one out, Moss and Escobar up. Yeah, no runs.
July? The Royals lost on walk-offs three different times and lost another Danny Duffy start 1-0. I will offer the 9-8 loss in ten innings against Boston on July 29th as ‘our game of the month’, but you can pick from and lament any of those four.
The Boston game was a Trevor Cahill start that featured, not surprisingly, six different Royals relievers. Four of those six allowed a single run in a slow bleed of a loss that also saw Kansas City get their lead-off batter on in both the ninth and tenth innings, but not score.
On August 24th, in the game immediately before the Royals were shutout four consecutive times, they took a 2-0 lead over Colorado after two innings, only to see the game slip away via a Pat Valaika two-run two-out homer in the eighth. The Royals could not take advantage of two walks issued to them in the fourth, a one-out single in the sixth or a lead-off single in the eighth. That eighth inning was particularly fun, given that Hosmer, Bonifacio and Moss all struck out swinging against Mike Dunn after Melky Cabrera’s lead-off single.
The obvious game in September is the ten inning loss to Cleveland on the 14th, but I am trying to avoid games that go into the ‘if we had Wade Davis’ column. Instead, how about another 3-2 loss to Cleveland last Sunday?
Here, the Royals plated two in the eighth to creep within a single run and put two on with one out in the ninth only to have Butera and Merrifield strike out swinging to end the game. Prior to that, the Royals had two on with one out in the seventh and did not score and Terrance Gore on second in the eighth only to see Mike Moustakas strike out.
One game a month, boys and girls. Six games that could have turned the other way without using much imagination at all. Six games that have very little to do with who the closer was.
You want Wade Davis and the four games he might have meant to this team? I will live with Kelvin Herrera and ask for the six games detailed above.
The Kansas City Royals are not a great team this season. They probably are not even a ‘good’ team. That said, for the want of one more win per month, they still could have us excited about October.