Last year, one of my first acts at my previous site was watching the early-season Royals-A’s contest. Jharel Cotton tossed the finest game of his career; it was brought up roughly 173 times that he was one of the players acquired from the Dodgers for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick in one of the real low-key heists in recent baseball history.
I will remember that way more fondly than I recall this game.
In March, Cotton’s UCL ligament exploded like Gallagher smashed it with a mallet. If he never throws another pitch, I’ll always remember him for seven innings of two-hit ball in April 2017. And I tell that boring story because tonight another of those acquisitions in the Hill-Reddick fleecing, Frankie Montas, also spent several innings stymieing the Royals, in between long stretches when his offensive teammates beat Royals pitching like the Baby Blue Bombers had collectively stolen something.
If the A’s got to play the Royals all the time, it’s possible they wouldn’t quite so rue the day they let Rich Hill, Patron Saint of Effectively Wild (formerly a Baseball Prospectus podcast), go for nothing.
Now, it’s easy to befuddle the Royals as presently constructed. They are very bad on offense. And it’s easier to let it all hang out there in your fourth career start when you’ve been staked with a nine-run lead, which is exactly what the Royals gave the A’s.
Ian Kennedy was Montas’ counterpart; you, casual Royals observer, will be unsurprised to learn that Kennedy did not exactly match Montas’ prowess on the pitching rubber. Oh, sure, he sat down the first four A’s he faced before giving up a home run to Matt Olson; it flew 428 feet and exited the building at 108 mph, which often happens when you throw a belt-high fastball dead center of the plate with no movement.
The third inning is where everything got rocky (i.e. went to hell) for Kennedy. The inning’s first six batters either reached (Jonathan Lucroy singled, Matt Joyce walked, Matt Chapman singled, Jed Lowrie walked, Khris Davis singled) or, in the case of Olson, cleared the bases with his second homer of the game. If his season’s 10th was launched, No. 11 was rocketed into orbit, into the fountain some 456 feet away. That baseball exited at 110.3 mph, the fourth-hardest hit ball Kennedy’s surrendered this season; given the year Kennedy is having, that’s no small feat.
By this point it was 7-0, but Dustin Fowler hit a solo home run for poops and grins before the inning ended; apropos of nothing, one of my best friend’s is named Dustin Fowler.
Montas sat down eight in a row before Alcides Escobar lined a single into center in the third; by that time, the deficit was eight runs. And unlike collegiate softball, where you can end the game after five innings if the deficit is eight runs or more, we still had six more innings of this.
The Fox Sports Kansas City broadcast made a crucially important decision in the fourth inning; instead of more time spent with Rex Hudler and Ryan Lefebvre, the broadcast sent Joel Goldberg down to talk to Paul Rudd, Eric Stonestreet, Rob Riggle, David Koechner and a subdued Jason Sudeikis about their role with Big Slick Celebrity Weekend. Between Rudd attempting to have Very Serious Baseball Man conversations with Goldberg, Riggle hollering random gibberish and Koechner dusting off some Champ Kind for the occasion, it was easily the best part of the game.
For fun, the Royals ended the fourth and fifth innings with double play groundouts.
Back-to-back-to-back singles, including Lucroy’s 1,000th career hit, gave the A’s run No. 9 in the sixth inning. It was here I assumed we’d reached the portion of the evening where the A’s were killing time and the Royals were killing time and we were just gonna zoom through the final few frames and get everybody home.
Then the A’s scored seven more runs in the ninth.
[very Jeff Goldblum voice] Mmm. Yes. Seven runs. In the ninth? Yes. Seven runs in the ninth. Of a 16-0 ballgame. The Royals… find a way.
Chapman walked. Lowrie walked. Mark Canha singled. Olson walked, bring in his fifth RBI of the game. Chad Pinder flied out, so assume he’s getting sent down, but Stephen Piscotty made up for it by doubling home Lowrie and Canha. Then Fowler homered again to make it 15-0. Lucroy tripled (???) and scored on a sac fly by Joyce, which… I don’t know how baseball’s unwritten rules work. But scoring on a sac fly in a 15-0 game seems like something that Billy Martin would’ve had a pitcher throwing at somebody for. Call me old-fashioned.
Abraham Almonte hit a two-out triple in the ninth. Emilio Pagan struck out Dozier on three pitches to end the game with Almonte on third. This game was trash.
The Bright Spot: Whit Merrifield had three hits!
The Nadir: Almost all of the preceding 780 words.
The Next Step: Trevor Cahill makes his triumphant return to Kansas City sporting a 1-2 record, 2.25 ERA and 41 strikeouts; if there is mercy in this world, he will be beaten like a piñata tomorrow. Jason Hammel is also pitching; he struck out 10 in his last appearance. If there’s mercy in the world, he’ll double that total tomorrow.