RECAP: Royals split a doubleheader in the Bronx

The Royals and Yankees played two Saturday, and so did we here at BPKC. That allowed me to kill two birds with one stone and give the people what they really want: the first look at a post-Moustakas world in Kansas City.

Game One

It’s weird how sometimes you lose an integral part of the lineup and hit a brief hot streak, like the rest of the clubhouse realizes that they have to up their collective game in response.

Aside from a brief return to form in the middle innings, that was more or less what the Royals got in Game One, handing the Yankees a 10-5 beating on their home turf.

Brad Keller got into a whole bunch of trouble in the second inning, walking leadoff batter Greg Bird before surrendering a single to Neil Walker and hitting Austin Romine—doubly dangerous given the vitriol Jakob Junis received Thursday after hitting Aaron Judge. But then an Austin Wade tapper right in front of the plate—I guess Wade thought it was foul? Who cares—was snatched by Salvador Perez, who stepped on the plate and then tagged Wade for the rarely-seen 2U double play.

(Last one I can remember: Game 4, 2015 World Series when Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud made a meal of Ben Zobrist kind of being in his way.)

The Good Guys in Blue scored two in the third. With one out, Adalberto Mondesi doubled, followed by a Whit Merrifield walk. Rosell Herrera doubled the duo home to give Kansas City an early lead. A pitch hit the next batter, Perez. We’re going to see fireworks before this series is over, dadgummit.

Kansas City scored four in the fifth, leading things off with a BERTO single and a one-out ground-rule double by Herrera. Perez scored both with a single to center, then he made the easy trot home when Lucas Duda (still SUPER AVAILABLE, MLB GM’s) hit a sky-scraper that cleared the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees answered with two in the fifth on a Giancarlo Stanton homer, just the third allowed by Keller in more than 75 innings work between starting and relieving this season.

Keller wouldn’t make it out of the sixth, giving up three straight singles to Gleyber Torres, Bird and Walker to start the frame. Romine grounded into a run-scoring double-play—the double-play ball is Keller’s best friend—but Keller walked Wade, was visited by Ned Yost, who left him in, then gave up a single to Shane Robinson to score Wade and was summarily replaced by Kevin McCarthy.

(Note: I wish Elias or somebody tracked this because I’m almost certain opponents are hitting like .850 when Ned visits the mound but doesn’t take out his pitcher.)

An inning later, the Yankees would pull within a run. Didi Gregorious led off the inning with a single and scored on Gleyber Torres’ double, but Torres tried to be a hero and move to third on the play at the plate. Sheriff Salvy was having none of that, obviously. McCarthy and Tim Hill combined to get out of that bucket of syrup.

A Jorge Bonifacio walk, Alex Gordon single and Brian Goodwin homer put the Royals comfortably back in front again in the eighth, and Duda added a sac fly to score Herrera in the ninth to allow the Royals to reach double-digits in the run column for the first time since May 30 against the Twins.

Game Two

It’s always fun to have the new guy show up mid-game. Brett Phillips arrived in time to put on a uniform (wearing No. 14, if you’re curious) and the FSKC cameras caught him talking to Burch Smith in the dugout mid-inning, trying to figure out who everybody was.

Royals lost, 5-4.

The game itself got off to a bit of a slow start, at least from Kansas City’s perspective. With two down in the first, Perez singled, Jorge Bonifacio doubled and Duda was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Unfortunately, Hunter Dozier grounded out to end the inning and yes, we’ll see this scenario play out again later.

The Yankees pushed two across in the first. Brett Gardner and Stanton led off with singles, clean-up hitter (???) Miguel Andujar singled to score Gardner and then Heath Fillmyer hit Greg Bird to load the bases. Neil Walker capitalized with a sac fly to score Stanton and put a crooked number up in the New York first.

Perez homered in the third. That tied him with Yasmani Grandal for most in the bigs by a catcher this season and gave him 18 RBI in the last 15 games. With Moustakas now in Milwaukee, it makes no sense to pitch to Salvy if you’re an opponent, but they keep doing it even when his protection in the lineup is Bonifacio and Herrera.

The Yanks added another run in the fourth on a Shane Robinson homer, but from there it was smooth sailing for Fillmyer, who was solid over five innings (five hits, three earned) before turning it over to Brian Flynn for two scoreless innings. In the sixth, Flynn induced his 14th double play ball, most by a reliever in the bigs this season.

During this time the bats were doing their part in the comeback. In the fifth, the Royals loaded the bags thanks to one-out singles by Merrifield and Herrera and a Perez walk. Bonifacio struck out, but Duda drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Whit and bring the Royals within a run. Dozier struck out swinging to leave the bases loaded again. Kid’s got a swell exit velo, though, so it’s all good.

They’d tie it an inning later, with Rosie plating Brian Goodwin after a leadoff single and an Escobar sacrifice (literally the only good Esky can do at the plate without help).

Dozier would finally get something right with a two-out double in the seventh that eventually led to him scoring the go-ahead run. Goodwin singled, moving him to third, Escobar was walked—on four pitches!!!—and then Drew Butera walked to plate Dozier. I have been led to believe the Yankees had a good bullpen, but you can’t prove it by Zach Britton. Trash, I say. He should be a Royal.

I mentioned Flynn’s two scoreless innings. They were great. The bad news is that he was brought out for a third and Bird greeted him by launching a homer into the bullpen. Then Walker doubled. Then Flynn was removed and Glenn Sparkman was left to clean up the mess. Then Sparkman gave up a bunt single to Romine and walked Torres on four pitches that weren’t particularly close to load the bases with nobody out.

It didn’t go as poorly as it could’ve. Aaron Hicks hit a sac fly to score Walker. A Gardner tapper to Sparkman got a much-needed second out but moved the remaining runners up 90 feet. Then Sparkman reached back for a little extra to fan Stanton and end the inning.

Bless their terrible batting hearts, the Royals tried like the devil against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. BERTO led off with a single, but Gordon struck out, Escobar popped the first pitch up to Torres at second and, after BERTO stole second, Butera walked. Hope!

Then Whit took strike three on a backdoor slider. I’ll take a split.

The Bright Spot: Rosell Herrera collected five hits over the course of the doubleheader, taking his season average from .246 to .268.

The Nadir: Escobar was 0-for-7. It was pretty incredible, to be honest.

The Next Step: One more game awaits Sunday as Smith squares off against newly-acquire J.A. Happ as the Royals eye a split. 12:05 p.m. (CT) from the Bronx on FSKC.

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