Why ESPN put this random Royals-Rays game on national television is for the network to know and for us to merely speculate upon. It provided two highlights:
- Negro League Museum president Bob Kendrick hung around the broadcast for a few innings and told stories. Some of these you could get by watching Ken Burns Baseball docs, and some I’d heard before in other avenues. But it was fun to hear Bob rattling everything off the cuff and riffing about the importance of the Negro Leagues to not only baseball history but American history. Once a year, some network should give Bob Kendrick nine innings to just tell old stories and occasionally comment on the fact that a baseball game is happening in front of him.
- The home plate shimmy-off between Salvador Perez and Adeiny Hechavarria which not only provided the game’s deciding run but re-enacted this moment from Major League:
Anyway *spoiler alert* the Royals lost again. As Rustin Dodd likes to punctuate every game-ending tweet with, the record is 13-28. And aside from Whit Merrifield and Eric Skoglund, boy was this bad.
Where do we start here? Skoglund. 7.2 innings, seven scattered hits, two earned runs. Part of me wants Skoglund to blow sky high so he and his 5.58 ERA can fulfill their collective destiny as long relief/emergency starter for a team going nowhere (like the Royals, incidentally) or as a starter in Korea. But then he does… this… and it’s hard to boot him from the rotation, particularly a rotation with no clear hierarchy beyond Jakob Junis. At present, Skoglund’s once-a-month gem is worth whatever other struggles he seems to have.
Merrifield was the whole of the offense, going 3-for-4 and homering in the third to give the Royals their lone run in the 2-1 loss. Alcides Escobar, Jon Jay and Mike Moustakas had the other hits. Someone named Yarbrough (I wanna say Ryan, but that’s like a 60-40 confidence in the name) was responsible for this on Tampa’s end. I’m good when 8/9 of the lineup is 3-for-27 against, I dunno, Corey Kluber. I’m not all that fine with it against Create-A-Player Yarbrough.
And when your chances are so rare, you have to capitalize, which is exactly what the Royals didn’t do in the fifth inning. After Escobar and Merrifield singled and Jorge Soler walked with one away to load the bases, Moustakas didn’t just hit a first-pitch grounder; he smacked a first-pitch, in-the-happy-zone cutter right into the ground, which Whoever Yarbrough tossed to the plate and Wilson Ramos fired to first for an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.
In the ninth, the Royals had one final chance. Jay hit a one-out triple, which brought up Ryan Goins, which ended with a predictable three-pitch strikeout, strike three called with the bat on Goins’ shoulder. Alex Gordon grounded out; game over. Jay kicking rocks over on third.
Look, somebody has to say it and it may as well be me and THE ENTIRETY OF ROYALS TWITTER AND ANYONE WHO KNOWS BASEBALL EVEN A LITTLE BIT: there’s no good reason for Ryan Goins to bat in a close game with a runner in scoring position when there are ANY OTHER OPTIONS AVAILABLE to Ned Yost, which there were. Ryan Goins is bad, which is fine in the sense that most of the 2018 Royals are bad and the losses are gonna pile up and if it weren’t for whatever tragi-comedy was happening in Baltimore the Royals would be the odds-on favorite for the No. 1 pick in June 2019. That’s fine. I have no problem with losing a garden-variety 9-4 snoozefest.
But when you’re actually in a ballgame and you have a chance to win and the tying run is on third and Abraham Almonte and Drew Butera on the bench (Christ, it’s not much better there is it?), why not, I dunno, try to win the game? What is it about Goins that gets him 43rd chances with this stuff?
Matt Duffy drove in both runs for Tampa. I thought Matt Duffy had left baseball after he left San Francisco but nope… just exiled to American League Siberia. The names on the Rays lineup card were a veritable who’s-who of guys I hadn’t thought of in several years. Hechavarria. Ramos. C.J. Cron. Brad Miller. Jonny Venters! If you can’t root for Jonny Venters, of the three-and-a-half Tommy John surgeries, you should stop following baseball. And since this game was garbage, here is where we’ll end.
The Bright Spot: Did you know Merrifield is hitting .288, has a .783 OPS and is pretty much the only dude I’d trust with a hit if my life depended on it?
The Nadir: I hope the Royals soon employee a coach whose sole job is to duct tape Goins to the bench after the seventh of any game within three runs either direction.
The Next Step: Ian Kennedy is pitching tomorrow. A googling of this Anthony Banda person reveals he’s making his fifth career start, ninth career appearance and first of either with the Rays. Neat.