Yeah I know that technically it says in the box score that Brandon Maurer blew the save but hear me out. There’s a little more to it than that.
The Royals lost, they do that a lot. Tonight they lost in a way that was slightly different given how 2018 has gone—by planting hope against a far superior team and then squandering it away in predictably Royals fashion.
Fast-forward to the fourth inning, because Ian Kennedy and Lance McCullers Jr. didn’t allow much more than a couple of walks in the first three frames. That’s when the Royals broke through thanks to Hunter Dozier, who rewarded the trust placed in him—after all, he could’ve been sent down when Lucas Duda returned, but instead Paulo Orlando was optioned—with a three-run home run to score Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, who each singled.
Kennedy gave two runs back in the home half. Jose Altuve’s one-out double started the troubles, which Kennedy compounded with a wild pitch that moved Altuve to third. Carlos Correa drove him in with a sac fly, then Yuli Gurriel drove a change-up into the Crawford Boxes for a solo homer.
A leadoff single by Mike Moustakas in the sixth, a one-out single by Josh Reddick in the seventh… victimless crimes, ultimately.
The Royals had a chance to add one in the ninth when Lucas Duda hit a one-out single and the fastest man on the team, Adalberto Mondesi, pinch-ran for him. Everyone in the building knew Mondesi was taking off sooner or later, none moreso than Brian McCann behind the plate. Mondesi got the jump and beat the ball there, but Carlos Correa channeled his inner Javier Baez and slapped a perfect tag on Mondesi—review ruled him out, and out he was. That made it 3-2 going into the ninth.
Where Brandon Maurer was given the ball. Royals Twitter was… displeased.
find somebody who loves you as much as Ned Yost loves pitching Brandon Maurer in high leverage spots
— Brandon H. (@BHIndepMO) June 24, 2018
— wait wut (@theantifascist) June 24, 2018
Oh you have got to be kidding me with Brandon Maurer for a save chance
— Ryan Landreth (@ryan_landreth) June 24, 2018
On the one hand, you hate this move for all the baseball reasons you can think of—Maurer entered play with an 11.37 ERA and was in Omaha a couple weeks ago and had not ONCE looked like a professional pitcher of baseball’s this season. On the other, maybe if he looks competent for a few weeks, some sucker will take him off Kansas City’s hands.
This was not his fault.
I mean, it was his fault, because that’s what it says on the line score—the game-tying run was charged to Maurer, because those are baseball’s scoring rules. But what happened was less about him than it was about luck and baseball and how sometimes things just don’t go your way.
After Maurer gassed Correa—two upper-90s four-seamers, followed by two nasty sliders for the punchout—Gurriel dribbled (can’t really think of a better word for it) a grounder through the hole between Moustakas and Alcides Escobar for a single, followed by a duck-fart of a single to center from Josh Reddick that moved pinch-runner Jake Marisnick to third. All Evan Gattis had to do was lift a sac fly to tie the game, but he nearly won it had it not been for Alex Gordon’s catch-of-the-year candidate—given the difficulty and relative high stakes compared to what Kansas City usually encounters—that forced Reddick to scamper back to first. Maurer kept playing with fire by walking Marwin Gonzalez but a first-pitch ground out from McCann sent the game to extras.
Tenth inning… meh.
Eleventh inning… slightly more excitement, mostly of the Royals own construction. Alcides Escobar (the guy who has played 400+ straight games because of his flawless defense) short-hopped a throw that Dozier couldn’t corral at first to put Marisnick on, but after he was moved over on a Reddick bunt, he was stranded at second by a surprisingly competent Burch Smith (two innings of no-hit ball).
It all went haywire in the 12th though. Collin McHugh struck out the side, so the Royals were playing for a tie regardless but of course the (Justin) Grimm Reaper struck again. After issuing a leadoff walk to George Springer, an Alex Bregman pop up got down behind Hunter Dozier and Ryan Goins and in front of Rosell Herrera, with Springer moving to third and Goins issued an error. Grimm put Altuve on but Correa delivered the walk-off blow to even the series.
Just did the math. Justin Grimm and Brandon Maurer appearing in the same game gives the @Royals a negative win probability.
— Seth Atkins (@SethAtkins) June 24, 2018
That kinda sucks. However…
And with that, the Kansas City Royals are the sole owners of last place overall in Major League Baseball This season has been success beyond our wildest dreams — Matt LaMar (@LaMar_Matt) June 24, 2018
The Bright Spot: Poor old Ian Kennedy. Seven innings, four hits, two earned, five strikeouts… and the best he can do is a no-decision. Get that man a scotch on the house. The Nadir: Whit Merrifield was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, his first career four-K game as a big-leaguer. He had not struck out three times in a game this season prior to Saturday; in fact, he only had eight three-strikeout games in 298 career games. Whitley’s had better days.
Whit Merrifield had never struck out four times in a major-league game until now. But does the golden sombrero count if it’s donned in the 11th inning?
— Maria Torres (@maria_torres3) June 24, 2018
The Next Step: Jason Hammel faces a team that he owns a career 2.85 ERA against on Sunday, while Gerrit Cole comes in after getting an extra day off following his season-high 116 pitches on Monday. 1:10 p.m. (CT) at Minute Maid Park you could potentially see something special—a bad Royals team take a series off the defending champs.