Yes, it’s May 4. As an enormous nerd, baseball and otherwise, I am well aware of the significance. I’ll try to keep the #MayThe4thBeWithYou references to a minimum. No promises.
A long time ago, at a baseball stadium not all that far away… the Royals won another baseball game!
Invaders from the north assaulted Kauffman Stadium Friday night, with the Detroit Tigers back at it and the Royals looking to win back-to-back games to open the series. It was an old-school pitcher’s duel between Francisco Liriano and Ian Kennedy, and I say old school because when those dudes were in school they still used slide rules and read Of Mice and Men, not because it was a classic but because it was a recent best-seller.
(I’m trying to say they’re old, did everybody get the joke, okay moving on.)
I can spin this one of two ways: incredible pitching and defense or anemic offense. You want the uplifting story of Kennedy, Liriano and some solid defensive efforts? You got it. In the very first inning, Lucas Duda robbed Jeimer Candelario of extra bases with a diving stop on a bouncer down the line at first, then Leonys Martin tracked down a deep Jorge Soler drive to dead center.
Things got weird in the second. JaCoby Jones dove out of the way of a Kennedy fastball that ran in, but the ball hit the knob of the bat and bounced fair, leading to a 5-4-3 double play that went on while Jones was still finding his bearings.
In the Tiger fifth, Kennedy did the work himself. In a bind after John Hicks and James McCann led off the frame with back-to-back singles, Kennedy struck out Jose Iglesias, Dixon Machado and Martin to turn away the Tiger threat.
Things got weirder in the seventh. With two out and a McCann at first after a leadoff single, McCann took for second and appeared to make it after Salvador Perez’s throw sailed high. But video review confirmed that McCann slightly overslid the bag and rolled off, while Alcides Escobar—who had a job merely catching this ball—kept the tag applied and McCann was ruled out.
What was the Royals offense doing during this time, you ask? Nothing, essentially. Six of the first seven innings saw Liriano face the minimum, albeit with the aid of three double play balls. Typical Royals, one would think. Get a good pitching performance and the offense no-shows.
All the offense—all of it—happened in the eighth. Darth Boyer was inserted in the top of the inning, so the idea of going up and down was dead from the jump. Candelario, hitting with one down, doubled down the right field line after the ballboy, thinking foul was called, picked up the ball and tossed it into the stands. Hang in their kid, I’m sure everybody will forget it after the weekend. Boyer induced a Nick Castellanos pop out and then put Victor Martinez on to set up the force.
Jones had other ideas. After the hard-luck double-play ball in the second, he ripped a two-out double down the line in left to score both and give the Tigers the game’s first lead. All she wrote for the hometown team, right?
Wrong! Cheslor Cuthbert walked, Jon Jay Binks singled and after a Duda fly out, so did Alex Gordon to load the bases and bring Admiral Alcides Escobar up to restore balance to the universe. Reliever Joe Jimenez, in his uncorked a wild pitch with his first offering to Esky, scoring Cuthbert and setting up a bizarre scenario in which Alcides Escobar was intentionally walked. I shared this on Twitter (@CWilson225, he said shamelessly) but it bears repeating here:
- He has two or fewer intentional walks in every season since 2010.
- He was intentionally walked seven times in 2010 with Milwaukee and 10 times since.
- This was his first intentional free pass by a non-White Sox pitcher since July 3, 2015.
- The Royals have not lost a game in which he was intentionally walked since July 2, 2011.
This did not go well for the Tigers. With the sacks refilled, Whit Merrifield lifted a sac fly to score Jay, followed by Escobar’s second steal of the season. With two in scoring position, Jorge Soler did that thing he’s been doing a lot recently: hitting the cover off the ball, scoring both Gordon and Escobar to give the Royals a two-run lead.
Kelvin Herrera did what Kelvin Herrera does in the ninth—slammed the door with little to no trouble. That’s 10 wins for the Royals! Before June! The Force is strong with this one!
The Bright Spot: The eighth inning
The Nadir: The first seven. Francisco Liriano is not vintage Francisco Liriano unless it’s against the Royals, so it would seem.
The Next Step: A 3:15 p.m. Cinco de Mayo tilt should leave plenty of time for… festivities… after Jason Hammel and Jordan Zimmermann attempt their hand at turning back the clock ala Liriano and Kennedy.