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RECAP: Whit, Salvy and Junis more than enough to topple Yanks

 

Any day the New York Yankees lose is a good day for baseball. This particular day also featured a win for the Kansas City Royals in the series opener, making it that much sweeter.

To defeat the Evil Empire typically would take a total team effort but the Royals really didn’t need much more than Jakob Junis, Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez in Friday night’s effort.

Against one of baseball’s most formidable offensive units, Junis wasn’t overpowering. He struck out just three in his 5.1 innings of work and left with two on base, which turned into the only two runs for New York. Seven hits were scattered. Things weren’t perfect.

But whatever adjective or adverb you’d ascribe to Junis, effective would suffice. He was particularly adroit against the first five members of the vaunted Yankee lineup, allowing just two singles to Giancarlo Stanton (in the fourth and sixth) and a fifth-inning Brett Gardner single. Whatever troubles he ran into—putting Stanton and Aaron Hicks on in the fourth with two away, or putting Gleyber Torres and Gardner aboard with one away the next inning—he managed an escape. That’s what good pitchers do; among a season of other examples, here’s one more that Jakob Junis is apparently a good pitcher.

Merrifield set the table, and then some. He doubled and stole third in the first inning.

He singled and stole second in the third.

He singled (again) and stole second (again) in the fourth. He’s now hit in 11 straight games. And it was his hard sprint to his left, pick-spin-and-fire to Hunter Dozier at first that helped Junis escape his fifth-inning jam.

And he did this in an effort to set the table for the Royals, among whom only Salvador Perez seemed willing (or able) to capitalize. He drove Merrifield home after the swiping of third base in the first inning, and also hit a solo homer (in the fifth) and an RBI double (in the seventh) to score Mike Moustakas, just his second three-RBI game this season but his 19th RBI in 24 games since coming off the disabled list. He snapped an 0-for-12 skid in a big way.

(Less impressive: Alex Gordon, 4-for-30 with 10 strikeouts since May 9. Rumors of Gordon’s timely resurgence might’ve been greatly exaggerated.)

The only runs not provided by Perez came in a third inning C.C. Sabathia would probably just as soon forget. It opened with an Abraham Almonte walk, followed by a Merrifield single and a Jorge Soler strikeout. Moustakas popped out and Sabathia was thissss close to getting out of the inning.

But then… oh then. Perez walked to load the bases. Torres endeavored to play the short hop on a Jon Jay tapper and flat-out whiffed on his attempted throw to first. Almonte scored. Dozier, the next batter, walked to score Merrifield. It wasn’t exactly an offensive explosion, but at last check nobody ever got docked runs based on how easy they were to acquire.

The bullpen was largely solid, which is typically as high a praise as I’m willing to throw at them. Tim Hill allowed two runs to score, both of which he inherited from Junis in the sixth but limited the damage after that. Kevin McCarthy, the Reliable and Underrated Bradley Keller and Kelvin Herrera combined for three innings, four strikeouts and neither a hit nor a run to shut down any threat.

Our friend and Great Friend of the Site Mike Engel said it best:

What else? Oh yes, Drew Butera. Drew Butera didn’t play tonight. Now that Salvador Perez is back, he doesn’t play very much. But what he did do—making a pact with a young fan named Dagan who was battling cancer back in 2016 that if the young man beat cancer, he could dye the catcher’s signature locks whatever color he wanted. Dagan, cancer-free, dyed Butera’s hair pink on Friday. Drew Butera is cool as hell.

The Bright Spot: Whit is tearing it up of late. On this 11-game stretch, he’s hitting .465 (20-for-43). I don’t care about his launch angle or BABIP or anything else; .465 is good. He also moved into second in the AL with 12 steals this season.

The Nadir: Joining Gordon among the recently bad is Abraham Almonte, now 4-for-his-last-36.

The Next Step: Luis Severino and Danny Duffy square off in a 6:15 p.m. (CT), Saturday, tilt that I would’ve been a lot more excited for in February before this version of Duffy showed up. I’d like him to right the ship; I grow less hopeful by the start.

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