Bear with me, it has been ages since I recapped a win. I’m probably rusty.
That a team as bad as the Cincinnati Reds couldn’t find something to do with Rosell Herrera is starting to become a bit of a mystery to me, but their loss was the Royals gain on Friday night.
That’s because Rosell made the two plays of the game, keeping it tied and ultimately putting the Royals ahead as the Baby Blue Bombers toppled Houston in a gritty road win—their first since June 9 and just the third victory for Kansas City this month.
The Astros got two hits—a second-inning double by Carlos Correa and a sixth-inning Jose Altuve single. Two hits represented the second-fewest Houston, possibly the league’s most dominant offense, has secured in a game this season and saw the Astros shut out for just the fifth time. By the Royals, of all teams. Let’s dive into why and how this happened because baby, this is not the Kansas City Royals I expected to see tonight.
For starters, even though he allowed just the two hits, I don’t think Danny Duffy would tell you that he had his sharpest stuff tonight. Yes, the fastball had more action—he hit 96 mph on multiple occasions, a far cry from where we were in April when Duffy was struggling to break 90 on the regular—and yes, six innings of two-hit, shutout ball are nice. He also walked four and needed his defense to bail him out on more than one occasion.
After Correa doubled in the second, Duffy walked Gurriel and hung a curveball to Evan Gattis who, rather than deposit it 450 feet away, grounded into a double-play and Duffy struck out Marwin Gonzalez to end the inning.
In the third, Duffy hit Jake Marisnick and walked George Springer with one down, but got himself out of that one by getting Alex Bregman to fly out and Jose Altuve to ground out.
The sixth was the turning point, and a point I did not think would turn out well. After Springer led off with a walk, Bregman struck out and Altuve singled, Duffy started missing. Wildly. He hit the backstop to move Springer and Altuve into scoring position and lost Correa, after starting him out 0-2, with three straight balls so far up in the zone the Jolly Green Giant wouldn’t have been enticed to swing.
Sacks full. Gurriel up. Ned Yost heading out to the mound. This is usually where the starter, at over 100 pitches, hands the ball to the manager and scuttles to the dugout, exhausted yet disappointed at a job not quite finished.
Instead, Duffy remained in the game. Did he talk his way out of removal, or was Ned merely curious to hear his plan of attack? Doesn’t matter. Gurriel tried to yank a slider on the inside corner on Duffy’s first offering, grounding to Mike Moustakas, who stepped on third and fired to first for the double play. Duffy’s night was finished, but the offense still had work to do.
It was an offense that had left chances on the table all night. Back-to-back two-out singles by CENTER FIELDER Alcides Escobar and Paulo Orlando in the second… nothing. Back-to-back two-out walks to Alex Gordon and Escobar (?) in the fourth… nothing. A two-out double by Herrera in the fifth… nothing. In the half-inning preceding Duffy’s sixth-inning jam, Gordon had singled and Escobar had doubled (centerfield really must agree with Esky) with two down… but Gordon held at third and Orlando yeah you know.
Both Duffy and Dallas Keuchel turned it over to the bullpen after six shutout innings, and while Chris Devenski easily stymied Kansas City to start the seventh, Kevin McCarthy had a little trouble after the stretch. Gattis and Gonzalez led off with walks, then pinch-hitter Tony Kemp hit a bouncer to Whit Merrifield at second. Merrifield, knowing Kemp’s speed out of the box, elected to go after the granite-footed Gattis at third, resulting in the rarely-seen 4-5 on the scorecard and one out.
That nice bit of heads-up fielding was nearly rendered moot by Moustakas, who fielded pinch-hitter Tyler White’s grounder five pitches later, wanted to tag Gonzalez on the way to third, turned, discovered Gonzalez was already past him… and had nothing.
Bases full, George Springer up, nobody in the bullpen—this was McCarthy’s mess to clean up. And for the second time in as many innings, Yost’s faith in his pitcher was rewarded with a double play ball, Merrifield to Adalberto Mondesi to Dozier.
The Royals had a chance to finally scratch one across against Hector Rondon in the eighth. Salvador Perez, who makes Sid Bream look like Usain Bolt (ask your parents), legged out a one-out double, followed by strikeout (Dozier), intentional walk (Gordon) and walk (Escobar) to load ‘em up again.
To his credit, Orlando ran the count full. To his discredit, he swung at ball four, which was two feet outside.
Bregman looked like he had put the Astros ahead to lead off the eighth, lifting a drive to right. Ranging back, Herrera made the difficult look routine, soaring to snatch a homer away from the Astros slugger to keep the game scoreless.
Instead of resting on the laurels of his defensive achievement, Herrera drove in the game’s only run in the ninth. Mondesi led off with a single and stole second, but he needn’t hurry because two batters later Herrera’s drive into right-center allowed him to scamper to third with his season’s second triple and give the Royals a lead Tim Hill, New Closer, would hold up with a three-up, three-down ninth inning.
Streak snapped. All thanks to Danny Duffy, Tim Hill and Rosell Herrera.
The Bright Spot: Herrera and Escobar are two-thirds of the outfield of the future. Fight me.
The Nadir: You two-hit a team, you really should put the game away before the ninth inning if I want to pick nits.
The Next Step: Ian Kennedy loses to Lance McCullers Jr. (or a reliever) but it doesn’t matter because Kennedy is going to lose.
(Kennedy is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA against the Astros in his career, but let’s not jinx this.)