Ryan O"hearn

RECAP: Yeah, the bullpen again

Ryan O’Hearn is just a big ol’ American tater-mashing galoot and I love him.

I don’t know what Ryan O’Hearn’s big-league career is going to look like, and neither does anyone else. He could blossom into a fringe All-Star or spend most of his 30s in South Korea. I try not to get carried away on the small samples, because once upon a time Jeff Francoeur was on the cover of Sports Illustrated something like 15 games into his career and I bet SI wishes it had a mulligan on that, and I say that as an absolute Jeff Francoeur stan.

Francoeur eventually went from phenom to highly-regarded clubhouse guy and role player, largely because he couldn’t/wouldn’t work the count at all. There’s no shame in that life; Frenchy played 12 years and earned almost $30 million during his big-league career. If you offered that to O’Hearn right now, I imagine he’d say yes. A decade-plus in the bigs and life-altering money is nothing to turn one’s nose up at.

And yet there is a whiff—an ever-so-slight as to be almost imperceptible hint—that O’Hearn could be even better than that. He may not be—again, he’s a big dude who mashes, with an aversion to lefties and defense that’ll probably have him doing a lot of DHing during his life. He may need to brush up on his Korean. But so long as he keeps hitting like this, I’m more than willing to keep giving him the benefit of the doubt.

The Kansas City Royals bullpen is another matter entirely.

The Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Royals and the two teams matched one another tit-for-tat for much of the night. But as happened a few times (so, so many times that one loses track), the bullpen simply hold up its end of the bargain in a 7-6 walk-off loss to open the series.

Brad Keller was good again. He wasn’t dominant, and he ran into trouble at times, but he managed to scatter 10 hits over six innings, limited the damage to four runs and struck out seven to boot. He pitched well enough to win. You’ll find that doesn’t often matter around here.

A chance for the Royals to do some really early damage—after Alex Gordon was hit by a pitch and Salvador Perez reached via error—was negated when Joe Musgrove induced an O’Hearn ground out to end the first inning, but Kansas City still managed to draw first blood in the third inning. Whit Merrifield led off with a single, moved to second on an Adalberto Mondesi bunt and scored on Alex Gordon’s double. Good ol’ National League baseball at its finest.

That lead lasted approximately seven minutes. Adam Frazier singled with one out, moved to second on a Starling Marte groundout and scored on a Corey Dickerson single. Back to square one we go! The Pirates then took the lead an inning later when Frazier doubled home Kevin Newman and Jacob Stallings after the duo posted back-to-back one-out singles.

The Kansas City offense roared to life in the fifth when Keller singled to lead off the inning. Smelling blood in the water, BERTO, Gordon and Perez followed a Merrifield flyout with three straight singles, with Gordon’s scoring Keller and The Sheriff bringing home BERTO. Then Mrs. O’Hearn’s Baby Boy scored Gordon with a booming double into right; Jorge Bonifacio’s sac fly scored Perez and gave the Royals a 5-3 lead.

Alas.

Keller faced the first two Pirates to start the seventh; that didn’t go well, as both Pablo Reyes and Marte singled. Dickerson was out on a bang-bang play at first that allowed Mondesi to casually show off the cannon attached to his right shoulder (call was upheld on review), but both runners moved up on the high chopper and Josh Bell drove in Reyes with a single.

It looked like fortune was favoring the Royals when O’Hearn led off the eighth against LEFTY Steven Brault and took him out of the park. Leaving aside that it was just O’Hearn’s second hit against a lefty in his Kansas City career, he did it against Brault, no slouch against lefties himself.

Things went to crap once more in the eighth. With two outs, Jose Osuna singled on a ball Kevin McCarthy couldn’t handle, moved to second on a wild pitch and then scored when O’Hearn dropped Hunter Dozier’s throw on Reyes’ single. Marte’s triple tied it. You know where this is heading, but let’s see it to its logical conclusion. The Royals ninth yielded nothing. Ben Lively walked Bell but got Jordan Luplow to ground into a 5-4-3 double play. A sliver of hope! Dashed. Kevin Kramer walked. Newman singled to left. So did Stallings and Kramer, off at the crack of the bat, slid in ahead of a throw up the line. Lather, rinse, repeat. Seen this one.

Your Tweet of Despair

The Bright Spot: O’Hearn and Gordon both got base knocks and both drove in multiple runs.

The Nadir: Three innings, three earned runs is not inspiring bullpenning.

The Next Step: Eric Skoglund gets start No. 2 since returning from the disabled list. His reward is Jameson Taillon, who has a 2.41 ERA in his last 11 starts. I’m sure the Royals will provide adequate run support.

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