Alex Gordon

RECAP: The phenom leaves early, but the Royals lose anyway

If the Royals broke Shohei Ohtani, I’m gonna be mad.

There’s no real modern-day precedent for Ohtani, the young Japanese dual-threat who likely cost himself armfuls of money by coming over as an international amateur rather than waiting a couple of years, when he could’ve secured a contract akin to an armored car backing up to his home and dumping $100 bills through his living room window. Instead, he took the international signing bonus max the Angels offered (reportedly about $2.315 million, which wasn’t even the most on offer), is making the league minimum and early in his young career is threatening to do something different and unique pretty much every time he takes the field.

When his April start against the Royals was scuttled due to weather, I was bummed, because who doesn’t want to see a generational talent dominate for a few innings?

We got four innings of Ohtani on Tuesday before his trainer and Angels manager Mike Scioscia saw something that had the latter march to the mound and remove Ohtani as he was completing his warm-up pitches to start the fifth inning. It’s possible that Scioscia began to worry in the previous inning when Ohtani, with no real warning, suddenly lost his command. With two out and Mike Moustakas on first after a lead-off single, Ohtani suddenly couldn’t find the plate, throwing a four-seamer straight into the dirt that moved Moustakas to second, overcompensating to the point that his ball-two splitter nearly sailed over catcher Martin Maldonado’s head, then running the count to 3-0 before leaving two very hittable fastballs well up in the zone, with Alex Gordon smacking the last for a run-scoring single.

That I can recall this bit so clearly should clue you in that it was another one of those nights for the Royals at the plate, Ohtani or Nohtani.

The bummer in all this, if you like watching great baseball players do great baseball things, is that Ohtani was occasionally other-worldly before getting the hook. Thanks to @pitchingninja, you can see how filthy some of this was… provided you click on the links below, because FOR SOME REASON WE CAN’T EMBED TWITTER VIDEO RIGHT NOW MY GOD IS THIS WHAT THE 1970s WERE LIKE???

Here’s a lollipop curve to take your stomach away.

Here’s a slider that vapor-locked Salvador Perez.

Here is Alcides Escobar bailing Ohtani out on a slider a toddler would’ve known better than to swing at.

But then he went away and the fun was over.

Lost in this was that Ian Kennedy was quietly (very quietly) every bit Ohtani’s equal on Tuesday night. In his five innings, he put 10 runners on (seven hits, three walks), but struck out five and showed some veteran savvy in a couple of tight situations.

In the second, after striking out Justin Upton to start the inning, Kennedy surrendered a Luis Valbuena double, a Maldonado single and walked Chris Young to load the bases. But instead of panicking, Kennedy bore down and got Kaleb Cowart (strikeout) and Michael Hermosillo (groundout) to end the inning.

Kennedy ran into significant trouble in the fifth, surrendering his only run of the game on back-to-back doubles by Ian Kinsler (of course) and Zack Cozart to tie the game up. Compounding matters, Kennedy’s wild pitch moved Cozart to third and Mike Trout walked. Kennedy induced another Upton strikeout for out one, but walked Valbuena to load the sacks with one away.

And then Kennedy hung an 0-1 curve… that Maldonado popped out.

And then a belt-high fastball to Young caught the center of the plate… and Young popped out too. Ned Yost, thinking wisely, removed Kennedy at this point.

Props to Kennedy for getting Rustin Dudd to tweet a bunch of words and numbers I never expected to apply to a Kennedy-Trout matchup, though.

(To recap: I can embed Rustin’s mug, so long as it’s just text. Just no video. You’re a cruel mistress, technology.)

Did it ultimately matter? Dear reader, you knew the answer to that before you even clicked on the link. Scott Barlow relieved Kennedy in the sixth, and gave up a two-run dinger to Kinsler (OF COURSE) to turn a tie game into a two-run deficit. An inning later, Upton cranked a leadoff homer. By the nature of what it is you do when you recap a game, I’m gonna go ahead and finish her out, but you feel free to skip to the end.

The Royals cut the deficit to a run in the top of the eighth. With Justin Anderson on the mound, the Royals strung together a pair of one-out walks by Moustakas and Perez, with both advancing on a wild pitch that initially was ruled to have caught Moose at third before it was overturned. Gordon drove in both runs again with an RBI single that glanced under Kinsler’s glove. After a Hunter Dozier single put the tying run on third, Blake Parker was brought in to get the four-out save, striking out Ryan Goins to end the eighth.

Parker quickly went three-up, three-down in the ninth.

The Bright Spot: Four innings of Ohtani (the Angels are calling it a blister) is better than no innings of Ohtani. And hey, kudos to Gordon on his first three-RBI day in nearly a month. Why can’t he hit second when Escobar is a tire fire? No idea.

The Nadir: Alcides Escobar hitting second was a bad idea in 2015, never mind now.

The Next Step: Long as they’re out in Cali, the Royals will pay a visit to Oakland to take on Frankie Montas (he threw eight shutout innings in a 16-0 ass-kicking of the Royals last Friday). Jason Hammel will endeavor to counter after allowing seven hits and three earned his last time out against [checks notes] the A’s. Good scheduling, MLB.

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