By virtue of not surrendering seven runs in an inning even once, let alone twice, in Saturday’s matinee, the Kansas City Royals were already in higher cotton than they were after Friday’s game.
Being able to fend off the A’s and even the series at one game apiece was just a sweetener.
Despite tying the game up, Oakland could not find the go-ahead run and Jorge Soler provided the late-inning run needed to give the Royals the 5-4 win at Kauffman Stadium, Saturday.
Could I interest you in a 4-0 lead after two innings? I knew you’d like that. it began, as many a Royal run-scoring opportunity has begun this season, with Jon Jay. The centerfielder lined a single into center, moved to third on Whit Merrifield’s double. Salvador Perez scored both on a double that one-hopped the fence after going over Matt Joyce’s head.
Jay played a pivotal role in the two-run second, this time driving in a run rather than scoring it. With two down, Goins attempted to catch the A’s napping and laid down a bunt. He was initially ruled out but on further review was deemed safe. Blessed with new life, Alcides Escobar tripled home Goins and then scored when Jay doubled down the line in left.
(Updated scoring dichotomy’s: Royals outscoring foes 73-52 in the first two innings; opponents hold 276-161 advantage thereafter. Will keep updating as it becomes more and more improbable. If every game stopped before the top of the third, the Royals would be leading the division.)
This was the welcome I was hoping the Royals would provide Trevor Cahill, and Jason Hammel was fairly sharp for his part. He stayed away from the big inning, yielding a run in the third (Jed Lowrie single following a Marcus Semien double) and again in the fourth (Stephen Piscotty scored on a Bruce Maxwell single; Piscotty almost had an RBI himself but Alex Gordon threw Dustin Fowler out at home, his second outfield assist this week).
Skipping ahead (nothing happened in the fifth or sixth innings, to the best of my knowledge), Maxwell greeted Hammel with a home run to centerfield to start the seventh, which knocked Hammel out of the game. This wasn’t as good as his 10-strikeout start, or even some of his other good efforts, but it’s also not Ian Kennedy getting his brains kicked in. You can work with six innings, three earned and three strikeouts.
(Hammel also had a little luck: Four A’s hit balls at least 106.0 mph off of him; Maxwell’s was a home run, but Matt Chapman’s second inning single yielded nothing and the other two—a Piscotty liner and a Khris Davis grounder—were outs.)
As ever when the bullpen gets involved, things can get a little tense and Saturday was no exception. Kevin McCarthy relieved Hammel and quickly buzzed through the A’s in the seventh, but Tim Hill had a rockier time, if perhaps some bad luck, in the eighth. Matt Olson greeted him with a single to start the frame, which is fine—Olson took Kennedy deep twice yesterday, I’ll take a single, although it was a belt-high four-seamer, so things could’ve been worse.
And Hill induced a high chopper that Goins played expertly off the hop (I’ll bet the Venn diagram between Ryan Goins and the word ‘expert’ is super small), but developed too slowly to turn for two. That allowed Chad Pinder, pinch-hitting for Fowler, to lace a single back through the box to score Olson, tie the game and rob Hammel of a victory.
It’s also a neat little summation of why the win’s stat for pitchers is a big pile of horse poop, but I digress.
If form were to follow function, this is the part where the 2018 Royals would come unglued, surrender a bunch of runs and lose. Instead, Hill got Piscotty to ground out and Jonathan Lucroy to line out to end the inning, then got to join the rest of the free world in watching Jorge Soler do that thing where he hits a baseball super-hard a very long way.
Actually, that’s not true; the 103.6 mph exit velocity is on the lower end for him this season, and 393 feet passes for wall-scraper territory where Soler is concerned; it’s just the third of his nine that failed to clear 400 feet. But it also got out of the yard and gave Kelvin Herrera more than enough rope to close out the contest for his season’s 13th save.
[old-timey auctioneer voice] Do I hear one top-50 prospect for Herrera? Do I hear one, can I get a one, anybody, one… I gotta one, can I get a two…
The Bright Spot: Jon Jay raised his average to .305 with a two-hit performance. He’s right ahead of his career numbers and comparable to what he did in Chicago last year and San Diego the year before. Is it a guarantee he’s going to be benched once Jorge Bonifacio is ready? If nothing else, he can continue putting on and hopefully snag a prospect near the deadline.
The Nadir: Slowly giving back runs as the fanbase died a slow death. Even if the worst didn’t happen, that was less than ideal.
The Next Step: The one guaranteed solid performer among Royals starters, Jake Junis looks to shake off his season’s worst outing (career-high four walks, four runs allowed to the Twins, Monday) in Sunday’s 1:15 p.m. (CT) matinee. Daniel Gossett looks to shake off a thrashing at the hands of the Rays (looks weird in print), which is consistent with the 0-3, 6.05 ERA the righty has posted this season.