Take away June and July and let him exclusively face the American League Central and Jakob Junis might be the best pitcher in baseball.
Now, remove any of those elements from the equation and things get a little more squirrely. Fortunately, that didn’t matter this is September and those were the White Sox and Junis was more than able to fend off the White Sox and put the Royals back in the win column at Kauffman Stadium.
And when things got tight late, Ned Yost turned to the one man he knew would come through: Alcides Escobar, who will probably have a three-year extension in front of him before you read this sentence. We’ll cross that bridge some other time.
The Good Guys bought Junis an early lead with a couple of runs early. Very early, in fact—Whit Merrifield deposited the first pitch he saw over the wall in left-center, his season’s 12th and his seventh career leadoff blast. If the Royals weren’t historically bad, he’d get some downballot MVP consideration this year; as is, he’ll have to content himself with being the lone Royals position player in the top-50 among American League players in fWAR.
(Yeah, you can check on that. Salvador Perez is just outside the top-50. And the offense is the better side of the ball right now. No wonder they’re gonna lose at least 105 games.)
Perez led things off with a single in the second inning and moved up 90 feet on a Lucas Giolito wild pitch. Brian Goodwin singled Salvy to third, and then Escobar scored him with a sac fly. Quite a night for Alcides Escobar, the Patron Saint of Hitting At Or About .220.
Things threatened to come unglued in the White Sox third. Adam Engel led off with a home run, and then Jose Abreu started a two-out rally with a single. Daniel Palka (whose last name Ryan Lefebvre pronounces like, “caca,” which works for the 2018 White Sox on a great many levels) ended said rally with a two-run homer to put the Pale Hose ahead by a run.
A two-out Hunter Dozier triple represented the Royals chance in the third, and after that neither side really enjoyed another quality run-scoring opportunity again until the Royals sixth. That’s when Ryan O’Hearn sejt a Giolito two-seamer screaming into the Kansas City night for his season’s 10th home run—speaking of fWAR, he’s ranked eighth among Royals, behind two dudes (Mike Moustakas and Jon Jay) who no longer play for Kansas City and another (Jorge Soler) who hasn’t since mid-June.
So… tie game! Junis continued to be electric, sitting down his final 11 on the night. That got the game through eight with a lead, and Wily Peralta held serve in the ninth. The Royals Royal’d for a few innings on offense, so everyone was treated to some free baseball!
Jake Newberry is nobody’s idea of a reliable stopper at this point in his career, but you don’t have to be modern-day Goose Gossage to handle Wellington Castillo, Tim Anderson and Engel (one hopes). But that gave the Royals a chance to put the game away in the ninth, and boy did they! Goodwin led off with a double and Escobar sacrificed him over… only Jeanmar Gomez had other ideas and attempted to get Goodwin at third, only his throw was high and Goodwin scampered home with the game-winning run.
Your Unusually Happy Tweet of the Game
Jakob Junis appears to be done, which will bring his streak of consecutive innings without a walk to 30. He also becomes 1 of 6 #Royals pitchers all-time to toss 4-straight starts without issuing a free pass.
— Dave Holtzman (@DHoltzy) September 11, 2018
The Bright Spot: That tweet largely summed it up; Junis has flashed the same talent and potential in July and August that he did in April and May, and I just hope someday we’re done talking about Jakob Junis in terms of potential. Goodwin collected two hits. So did Alex Gordon, batting third (????) because you can’t just say ‘pass’ in baseball.
The Nadir: Adalberto Mondesi struck out twice in his 0-for-3 performance from the two-spot, if we’re picking nits.
The Next Step: Brad Keller, who is good, takes on either Dylan Covey, who might be but hasn’t really shown it at any point in 2018. Keller displayed a bend-not-break quality in last week’s 11-hit, one-run performance against Cleveland; one hopes things will be simpler against the likes of Nicky Delmonico.