Holy cow, what a difference a competent pitching performance makes.
Fundamentally, the Kansas City Royals were no different offensively in game two of their series against the Detroit Tigers than they were in Monday’s matinee. The offense sputtered, and that’s probably an insult to sputtering offenses. They eked out a meager run against noted human being Matthew Boyd and it felt like a Herculean effort just getting that. Bad. The offense is bad. Very bad. Don’t like.
Ahh, but where Monday featured Jason Hammel and whatever it is he’s trying to do out there, Tuesday was all about Jake Junis, who is good and young and everything Hammel is not. Including successful, as he picked up the win in a 1-0 decision at Comerica Park.
Junis was everything on Tuesday. He scattered three hits, allowed no runs, walked one and struck out six. He worked around a first-and-third with two outs situation in the third inning but aside from that was never really challenged. He retired 12 straight at one point. And he did all this on 87 pitches, as economic a showing as you’re really gonna find.
He got a little help, of course. After Nick Castellanos reached via Mike Moustakas error in the fourth, Whit Merrifield did this to get out of the inning and alleviate all chances of a threat being mounted.
— Jun-hong Kim (@corby4542) April 3, 2018
Whitley David Merrifield is a treasure.
And look, it’s April 3 and the bullpen is going to be a tire fire at times, but today things held up okay. Justin Grimm handled the eighth with aplomb, entering after Junis was pulled following a Mikie Mahtook single and mowing down Jose Iglesias (flyout), Dixon Machado (groundout) and Leonys Martin (flyout) on six pitches.
In the ninth, Kelvin Herrera came in and threw smoke for the second day in a row, consistently sitting at 95-96 mph as he locked up the Royals first win and his season’s first save. Whether he finishes out the season in KC or if he’s merely biding his time before a contender swoops in to get him for the stretch run remains to be seen, but these kinds of performances boost his stock and raise his profile; Justin Grimm is Justin Grimm, but if Kelvin Herrera is firing on all cylinders in July, somebody is going to make a Godfather offer and Dayton Moore would do well to listen.
The day’s lone run was manufactured in the second inning. Clean-up hitter (!!!!!) Cheslor Cuthbert roped (ahahahaha, it was the bloop to end all bloops) a double over the head of an impossibly slow-moving Miguel Cabrera at first, scooted over to third on a Paulo Orlando lineout and then scored on a Jorge Soler sacrifice flyikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoikghoik (Sorry … I briefly lost consciousness and fell asleep on my keyboard.) Fortunately, there are no style points for wins and the Royals can safely put any fears of overtaking the 1988 Baltimore Orioles for longest losing streak to begin a season to bed.
Bright Spots: Aside from the pitching, Cuthbert is hitting .400 after a 1-for-4 day at the plate. He looks … competent. The offense continues to put the bat on the ball (just three total strikeouts), although I’d feel a lot better if they were to do it against a real-life pitcher and not against Boyd, Francisco Liriano and whatever else passes for pitching in Detroit.
The Nadir: Tough to gripe about a 1-0 win. Although the crowd shots of a lifeless Comerica in which it looked like everyone in the stands had been kidnapped and forced to be there at gun point were pretty grim. And hey, a 1-0 game in 40 degree weather is probably a tough watch in person. A bracing shot of whiskey for all in attendance would’ve livened things up considerably.
The Next Step: The Duffman returneth for his season’s second start; Danny Duffy hopes to shake off a difficult Opening Day stint against Chicago as he closes out the series against Daniel Norris aka Van Man, who will make his season’s first trip out to the hill.