Opening Day is a time for optimism and happiness, that the long winter has ended and whatever else may come, hope springs eternal for your favorite team, be they World Series contenders or a Quad-A club with two recognizable faces and a roster full of has-beens and never-weres.
The Kansas City Royals may be in the latter camp, but any hope and optimism was squashed in an ugly 14-7 Game One beating at the hands of perennial American League favorite Chicago White Sox.
[Taps earpiece, listens intently.]
Oh. My mistake. Make that “also-ran and fellow cellar-dweller in the American League Central Chicago White Sox.” I apologize for the clerical error.
And the thing is, it started out SO promisingly. Like, “Hey, this team may not be half-bad promising.” The first 10 pitches faced by the Royals this season yielded a Jon Jay single, a Whit Merrifield single, a Mike Moustakas single and a Lucas Duda three-run home run. Eight batters came to the plate in the inning—2018 American League Comeback Player of the Year Alex Gordon even doubled!
And I hope that first inning doesn’t represent the high point of this season.
Danny Duffy rolled along for the first couple of innings, although the velocity—sitting 90-92, occasionally touching 93—was a hair low. He struck out Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez and Yoan Moncada in the third and altogether seemed to be in decent shape.
The roof fell in during the fourth inning. Avisail Garcia went out of the zone to lead off with a double, but Jose Abreu took a knee-high change-up deep to left-center to halve the Royals lead. Matt Davidson made it back-to-back jobs (more on him later, unfortunately) and Duffy induced lineouts by Nicky Delmonico and Wellington Castillo, which seemed to have calmed the storm.
Then Tim Anderson took Duffy deep, followed by a Sanchez walk, an Adam Engel single and a Moncada double—on a first-pitch, up-in-the-zone slider—to push across another run. 5-4 White Sox. Optimism tainted.
Ned Yost decided Duffy had had enough and sent Blaine Boyer out to start the fifth. Blaine Boyer, and his career 4.19 ERA, have been with seven franchises since 2010, not including his retirement in 2012 and stint with Hanshin in Japan in 2013. The reasons are very clear, because Blaine Boyer is unfortunately not very good. He gave up homers to Davidson (again, we’ll get there) and Anderson (again, although that’s the end of his day) and at that point it was 8-4.
This Royals team is not very well-equipped for making an epic comeback and it gets worse.
Justin Grimm replaced Brad Keller—whatever else, let it be known that Brad Keller tossed a scoreless inning—and at least wisely walked Davidson. Tim Hill came on and promptly hit Leury Garcia before getting a Castillo grounder for the second out. Then Burch Smith walked Anderson—again, wise call—to load ‘em up for Sanchez, who singled up the middle to score all three, running on the pitch with a full count.
11-4, Pale Hose.
Brian Flynn’s inning-plus of relief yielded Davidson’s third home run of the day—he’s the fourth man in big-league history with three homers on Opening Day, which means three of the four (Davidson, George Bell and Dmitri Young) have turned this trick against the Royals. That wrapped up Chicago’s offensive pyrotechnics, and what a day it was—an MLB record-tying six Opening Day home runs for the Sox, and an MLB-record for Opening Day pitchers used (nine—Duffy plus all eight bullpen arms) by the Royals.
Long past when such meaningless things as runs and hits ceased to matter and all life was empty and meaningless, the Royals added three runs—a Cheslor Cuthbert single in the eighth and scores by Alcides Escobar (on a wild pitch) and Drew Butera (thanks to a Whit Merrifield groundout) in the ninth. Aaron Bummer got the last out for the White Sox, which led to the Exhibit A in “Even Though Twitter is Awful We Still Need It For Moments Like These”:
there’s something very poetic about the final out of the first #Royals game of this season being recorded by “A. Bummer”
— Tim Webber (@HelloTimWebber) March 29, 2018
Bright Spots: Moustakas and Butera got two hits. The offense made contact (just two strikeouts). Keller pitched well. Say what you want about him, Ned Yost wears the hell out of a baseball uniform.
The Nadir: Davidson’s third homer was as deflating a “You gotta be kidding me!” moment as I can recall. Sometimes baseball is bad and you can’t do anything but shake your head.
The Next Step: Mercifully, Friday is a nice chance to sit back and ponder the meaning of life, if you’re a Royals fan. If you’re a player, maybe some batting practice? I dunno, man. We’ve got 161 more of these.
Game Two is Saturday, featuring a matchup between up-and-coming Lucas Giolito and down-and-going Ian Kennedy. Fortunately, Kennedy was beaten like a piñata at a quinceneara by the White Sox last season (7.65 ERA). Oh wait, that’s terrible news.
Ed. Note – We sincerely hope these recaps aren’t this dark all year. Help us, Nicky Lopez—you’re our only hope.