RECAP: A Marco Gonzales gem downs Royals

The Seattle Mariners only hit two balls really hard against Ian Kennedy on Friday night.

The trouble there is that would be precisely two more good knocks than the Royals managed against Marco Gonzales in another [checks thesaurus… ah, this’ll do] indolent 4-1 loss to open a West Coast series against the Mariners, Friday.

This version of Gonzales—specifically, a version who came within a strike of a complete-game shutout and allowed precisely three Royals to reach scoring position—is a far cry from the one Royals fans were treated to in early April, when he was beaten like a piñata for the worse part of four innings in an eventual 10-0 Royals win.

Yes, the Royals scored a 10-0 win in a Major League Baseball game in 2018. It’s on Baseball Reference and everything, I swear.

What was different about this game? Well, for starters it seemed like Gonzales was always working ahead in the count—of the 31 batters he faced, 23 either attacked the first pitch or had it called for a strike. And the impatience necessary to allow a pitcher to throw a complete game in under 100 pitches in 2018 is dang near legendary—Salvador Perez batted four times and saw 10 pitches. Total!

Mike Zunino, renowned for his lack of plate discipline, managed an eight-pitch at-bat that ended with him launching a baseball to Saturn, but we’ll get to that. And if you think Salvy was bad (he was), then Whit Merrifield’s lack of patience must be particularly frustrating. As the leadoff hitter, Whit’s job is to reach base by any means necessary and to work favorable counts; that’s tough to do when you average two pitches per plate appearance in four at-bats.

One would’ve thought it was the Royals rolling off the plane jet-lagged after flying cross-country after a game yesterday, not the Mariners.

A brief history of every time a Royals player reached scoring position against the Mariners on Friday:

  • Top of the first, Whit singles, Rosell Herrera moves him to second with a bunt. Whit’s promptly picked off.
  • Top of the fourth, Herrera doubles with one out and moves to third on Mike Moustakas’ infield single. Perez grounds into the easiest double play you’ll ever see.
  • Top of the ninth, Adalberto leads off with a double lasered down the left field line. Merrifield and Rosie ground out, but Moustakas’ single brings him home for the Royals only run.

Here’s where I’ll admit an uncomfortable truth: Ian Kennedy was fine in this game. First three innings, boom boom boom, no trouble at all. If you’ve noticed that Ian Kennedy’s slashes jump from .226/.285/.414 the first time through the order to .895/1.015/Infinity (actually, .365/.414/.643) the second time through well congrats, but this isn’t Family Feud.

With one down and Jean Segura on first, Mitch Haniger clubbed a get-over fastball that got over a little too well over the centerfield wall for a commanding 2-0 lead. It was a 400-footer, but that happens sometimes and Haniger now has 17 of those, so it’s not like he’s some jamoke like Matt Davidson, who can hit the Royals and do LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE.

Kennedy labored through the rest of the fourth, but eventually got pop ups from Nelson Cruz and Ryon Healy to finish the job.

The fifth inning is where Zunino murdered a baseball in cold blood. 454 feet, 116.0 mph exit velocity, a 100 percent chance of being a hit according to StatCast (and 100 percent chance of being gone off the bat). I can’t recall the last time I saw a baseball hit quite like that; it very nearly left the park. I’d show you video, but our site is currently not cooperating with tweets that have media in them, so take this person at their word.

The rest followed script pretty close to the letter. Jason Adam didn’t allow a run. Brandon Maurer did, after a couple of walks and a Segura single. Burch Smith was not a tire fire. The record [Rustin Dodd appears out of nowhere and bashes my skull in with a laptop].

Your Tweet of Despair

The Bright Spot: Despite his desire to swing away, Whit had two hits, as did Moustakas. Kennedy was as fine as man sporting a 1-8 record and 5.11 ERA can be…

The Nadir: … which makes it frustrating that reports after the game indicate he may have pulled something on the pitch Zunino hit to Mars. I actually thought, “Sweet gracious God, what’ll they do without Ian Kennedy?” and that makes me feel dirty all over.

The Next Step: Jason Hammel and Felix Hernandez in another edition of the season-long “Boy, this would’ve been more fun five years ago!” series. Neither is at their best anymore, but both can still turn it back the clock on occasion. That said, both come in with ERAs north of 5.00.

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