I had some real nice stuff here about the Royals making some progress and starting the second half with some fire and vigor and the appearance that they’d like to be a semi-respectable baseball team again and for eight innings, that looked to be the case.
Eleven pitches into Brandon Maurer’s relief effort and that was no longer the case.
The Royals have made a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but Monday night’s effort was particularly cruel. There was good pitching. There was some outright sterling defense. There was solid hitting up and down the lineup. And then Maurer showed up and it was over in a matter of moments. One dude crapped it away for the other 24 and that, more than anything else, is why Brandon Maurer has to go. Losing is one thing. Losing when 24 guys did everything they had to in order to win and one didn’t is something else.
Tonight it was Heath Fillmyer’s turn to be the hero… or would’ve been, if his trash bullpen had allowed things to work out for him. Making his second start, the righty turned in a solid performance, going 6.2 innings and striking out six while scattering three hits and allowing just two runs.
That’s going to sound like Fillmyer was out here missing bats and making life easy for the eight guys behind him, but that’s not quite the truth. In fact, the defense made Fillmyer’s life considerably easier, starting in the first inning with a 6-4-3 double play, continuing on Hunter Dozier’s diving stop an inning later and culminating in first baseman Salvador Perez (yep) making a behind-the-back flip to Fillmyer for an out in the fifth and Whit Merrifield nailing a cross-body throw to Perez to get Jose Iglesias by a millimeter two batters later.
Offensively, Lucas Duda did most of the heavy lifting, driving in all three early runs thanks to a two-run single in the first and another in the fifth to score Jorge Bonifacio after his double. The Royals pounded out 13 hits against the Tigers, who are bad at pitching, but then the Royals are pretty bad at hitting; they’d take 13 hits against a quality Double-A team some nights.
By the time Alcides Escobar ranged deep in the hole to backhand a Nick Castellanos bouncer and make the play at first to start the seventh, the Royals were collectively just showing off defensively. Fillmyer nearly got out of the seventh, but a walk to Victor Martinez and a bloop single by Jim Adduci got him a trip to the showers; Kevin McCarthy allowed a James McCann single to score Martinez, then moved Adduci and McCann up 90 feet after Drew Butera allowed a ball to get away. Then Iglesias singled to plate Adduci. 3-2 game. Bullpen making everyone nervous again.
But hey presto, the Royals got one back in the home half. Pinch-hitter Mike Moustakas greeted Daniel Stumpf with a double, then scored on a pinch-hit single by the recently-acquired Brian Goodwin. And McCarthy, rewarding Ned Yost for the trust I don’t think anyone else ever would’ve placed in him, got three groundouts in the eighth to keep the Tigers in check.
The Royals, by rights, should’ve added another run in the eighth. Butera led off with a single, moved to second on a Merrifield sac and then didn’t score… from second… on Rosell Herrera’s double. I’m not sure what Mike Jirschele did or did not see there and in the moment, it merely seemed odd rather than something the game turned because of.
But that’s the thing when you have Brandon Maurer in your bullpen—you can’t have too many runs. It followed a typical pattern of Maurer bed-crapping behavior. Jeimer Candelario led off with a bloop single, which always leads to rockets—Victor Martinez doubled into the rightfield corner, Adduci to the left. Eleven pitches, three hits, four strikes, two runs.
Jason Hammel, who also has seen better days, gave up a first-pitch double to McCann after replacing Maurer, which obviously he did. That put the Tigers ahead, and even though Hammel managed to get out of the inning with no further runs allowed, come on… you don’t think the Royals were coming back from that gut-punch, do you? Goodwin singled in the ninth, but that was that.
Your Tweet of Despair
It’s hard to put into words the rage that I feel when I see that Brandon Maurer is coming into pitch in the 9th inning in a close game. #Royals
— Jeremy C (@jayinlincoln) July 24, 2018
I hope Heath Fillmyer takes a big ol dump in Brandon Maurer’s hat. #Royals
— Brian Spano (@kcspano) July 24, 2018
Brandon Maurer was the pitcher Bob Uecker would get hits off of. #Royals
— sjpence (@sjpence) July 24, 2018
As you can see, we had some real contenders for tonight’s Tweet of Despair, and that’s not even including the ones I had to cull for swear words.
The Bright Spot: How’s about Goodwin riding into town and collecting two hits on his first night? How about Butera going 3-for-3 and sniffing .200 for the first time in a while? How about Lucas Duda driving in three runs and continuing to look like enticing trade bait?
The Nadir: WELL I WONDER WHAT IT COULD POSSIBLY BE TONIGHT.
The Next Step: If you’re not careful, this is the sort of kick to the collective sternum that sets off a time-wide funk and lengthy losing streak. Burch Smith will try to stop that by taking the ball tomorrow against Jordan Zimmermann, 7:15 p.m. (CT) in Kauffman.