Still no breaking news from those Chinese physicists on time travel, so it's back to Baseball Reference to take a random peek back in Royals history on August 2. This day has some pretty impressive significance nation-wide: the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Wild Bill Hickok's (a man with a lot of Kansas & Missouri ties) murder while playing poker in Deadwood, SD one hundred years later, and Einstein writing FDR urging him to start the Manhattan Project in 1939.
Hopefully the Royals have been dealt a much better hand on August 2nd than Wild Bill's "Dead Man's Hand" of Aces & Eights...
Six Years Ago: 2005
The Royals were in the middle of a seven game road trip through Tampa and Boston, having been swept in all four games versus the (then) Devil Rays. That alone was cause for embarrassment, as Lou Pinella's Tampa Bay club was one of the few teams as bad as the Royals in 2005. In fact, Kansas City entered that series with a better record than Tampa Bay. Little did Buddy Bell know, however, that it would be the start of the now-infamous 19-game losing streak (that Seattle tried its best to beat this season).
But life was still good on August 2, 2005---well, as good as it could be for a last place team on its way to losing for three straight weeks. Bell's Royals had only lost four in a row when they arrived in Boston to take on the first-place (and defending WS Champion) Red Sox, a team which had won five in a row. Ugh...not a good combo. Here are your starters:
|Kansas City Royals||Boston Red Sox|
|1||David DeJesus||CF||1||Johnny Damon||CF|
|2||Chip Ambres||LF||2||Edgar Renteria||SS|
|3||Mike Sweeney||DH||3||David Ortiz||DH|
|4||Matt Stairs||1B||4||Manny Ramirez||LF|
|5||Emil Brown||RF||5||Kevin Millar||1B|
|6||Mark Teahen||3B||6||Bill Mueller||3B|
|7||Angel Berroa||SS||7||Doug Mirabelli||C|
|8||John Buck||C||8||Jose Cruz||RF|
|9||Donnie Murphy||2B||9||Tony Graffanino||2B|
|Runelvys Hernandez P||Tim Wakefield P|
Despite their troubles against the Devil Rays, the Royals struck first versus Boston. Ambres and Sweeney singled, setting the table for a Matt Stairs 3-run homer, his 11th of the season. Staked to an early lead, Runelvys Hernandez came out strong, allowing only one hit in the first two frames (Oritz double in the first).
Chip Ambres led off the top of the third with his second homer of the season, giving KC a 4-0 lead. Hernandez retired the side in order in the bottom half of the third, and things were looking good for the Royals. Wakefield was pitching poorly, Runelvys seemed to be on his game, what could go wrong, right? Right?
Sadly, this is where it all turned in favor of the Red Sox. Wakefield retired the next nine hitters in a row, while Hernandez imploded in the fourth. He walked Edgar Renteria on a 3-2 count, then walked David Ortiz on four pitches, and compounded those errors by allowing a 3-run shot to Manny Ramirez, which put Boston right back in the game at 4-3. Thankfully Runelvys settled down, retiring the next three batters in the fourth, and cruising through the fifth and sixth without allowing another run.
It was still a narrow one-run lead going into the bottom of the 7th, and with Runelvys at 94 pitches, Buddy Bell elected to go to the bullpen in the form of rookie Ambiorix Burgos. Burgos had been very good in his first season as a Royal, and entered this game having been unscored upon in 13 of his last 14 appearances, while striking out 21 hitters in that same stretch.
Sadly, this would not be a good night for Burgos. He walked lead-off hitter Jose Cruz. Tony Graffanino singled, and when the ball was misplayed by RF Emil Brown, the runner came all the way around to score on the error, tying the game.
The defensive misplay could have affected Burgos on the mound, as Johnny Damon's RBI single scored Gaffanino to give Boston the lead. After a flyout, both Ramirez and Ortiz singled, plating Damon and giving the Red Sox a two-run cushion heading into the final two frames.
The Royals threatened with two outs in the 8th off of Mike Timlin, as Sweeney and Stairs both singled, but Emil Brown's horrific game continued as he flew out to end the rally.
Andy Sisco did his best to allow the lead to grow further in the bottom half of the 8th (surely rattled by the Neil Diamond sing-along), allowing a single and double with one out. With the infield pulled in, Johnny Damon grounded to 2B Donnie Murphy, who was able to cut down the runner at the plate. Sisco escaped the 8th, but just barely.
Boston brought in its closer, Curt Schilling (as odd as that sounds). After the heroics of the "Bloody Sock" in the 2004 playoffs, Schilling had spent much of 2005 on the DL with ankle-related injury rehab. He had returned in the middle of the season in the bullpen, and with the lack of a definite closer, Terry Francona had inserted Schill in the role.
Mark Teahen had an epic 10-pitch at-bat to lead off the top of the 9th. He battled long enough to earn a walk (THREE GABILLION POLK POINTS!), and moved up to second when Schilling balked on his second pitch to the next hitter, Angel Berroa (POLK POINTS TO INFINITY AND BEYOND). It was the only balk Schilling would be called for in the last 10 seasons of his career (he had seven in his first 10 seasons).
Unfortunately, that's as much as KC would threaten....getting the tying run to the plate. Berroa flew out to deep right, John Buck struck out on a 3-2 pitch, and Buddy Bell did the smart thing and pinch-hit for Donnie Murphy with two outs.........but failed horribly by doing so with Ruben Gotay. You are down to your last hitter, a HR ties the game, and you bring Gotay off the bench as the final bullet in your gun? UGH. Kansas City Royals baseball..."You gotta love these guys!"
Predictably, Gotay struck out to end the game. Somewhat fittingly, Gotay would play the next two nights for the Royals, but then would never play again for KC at the major league level, being banished to the minors, and later traded to the Mets for Jeff Keppinger the next season.
The Royals would go on to lose their next 14 games, including an old-school double-header to Detroit that I attended. The second game was a 1-0 loss that took an amazing 1:58 to play---Jose Lima was in full "Lima Time" mode that game, throwing a CG gem despite the loss. Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth was better, though. The only run scored on a double, wild pitch, and sac fly. Despite the horrific losing streak, Lima left the game to a standing ovation after retiring the last Tiger hitter in the top of the 9th (obligatory Lima pic below).
Seventeen Years Ago: 1994
Baseball was less than 10 days away from a work stoppage that would cancel the rest of the season and post-season, but on August 2, 1994, your Kansas City Royals were rolling. They had won 10 games in a row, which brought them into definite contention in the AL Central. Though they were in third place, they were a mere four games back of the White Sox. They were even closer to the AL Wild Card (1.5 back), battling Cleveland and Baltimore for the newly created playoff spot. Here are the AL standings on that date (* = division leader, **=wild card leader)
|Chi White Sox*||63-42||.600||3.5||34-19||29-23||29-23|
(Remember when .500 was good enough to win the AL West? Wow.)
Tony LaRussa's Oakland squad was not necessarily a good team in '94, but thanks to the AL West, they were somehow still in the race for their division. Here were your starters:
|Oakland Athletics||Kansas City Royals|
|1||Stan Javier||CF||1||Brian McRae||CF|
|2||Mike Bordick||SS||2||Vince Coleman||LF|
|3||Troy Neel||DH||3||Wally Joyner||1B|
|4||Ruben Sierra||RF||4||Bob Hamelin||DH|
|5||Terry Steinbach||C||5||Felix Jose||RF|
|6||Mike Aldrete||1B||6||Gary Gaetti||3B|
|7||Scott Brosius||3B||7||Mike Macfarlane||C|
|8||Ernie Young||LF||8||Greg Gagne||SS|
|9||Scott Hemond||2B||9||Jose Lind||2B|
|Todd Van Poppel P||David Cone P|
The pitching match-up definitely favored the Royals. This was David Cone's Cy Young winning season (6.1 WAR in only 23 starts, and it was also the year Van Poppel led the league in walks with 89 in only 116.2 IP. However, Oakland struck first in the game, plating two runs in the first on three hits.
"The Hammer' Bob Hamelin led off the 2nd by blasting a 3-1 Van Poppel offering deep down the RF line for his 22nd HR of the season. Mike MacFarlane tripled (!!!) later in the inning to score Felix Jose to tie the game at two.
Oakland responded in the 4th with a Ruben Sierra leadoff double and Mike Aldrete single to retake the lead. It wouldn't last long, however, as the first three Royals to bat in the bottom half all reached. Unfortunately, Bob Hamelin was thrown out trying to steal 2b (he'd somehow manage to steal four bags this season). After a MacFarlane strikeout for the second out of the inning, Greg Gagne and Jose "Chico" Lind came through with two clutch hits. Gagne's double plated one run, and Lind's single scored two, giving KC a 5-3 lead that they would never relinquish.
KC added a run on an error by Oakland Scott Brosius in the sixth, but Oakland responded with a run of their own in the seventh with two outs. Terry Steinbach singled, stole second (catcher stealing his 2nd bag of the year), and scored on an Aldrete single.
The 6-4 KC lead would hold until the ninth, when Cone finally exited the game for closer Jeff Montgomery. Monty was dominating, needing only 15 pitches (11 strikes) to strike out the side, closing the game in style for his 25th save of the season.
Despite the heat of a pennant race and the relatively cool weather (a mere 86 degrees), only 23,000+ were in attendance for the 11th consecutive Royals victory. The Boys in Blue would go on to extend the winning streak to 14 games, closing to within one game of the division lead before losing to Seattle on August 6th, capping an amazing two-week stretch of nothing but winning. The Royals lost four of their final five games before the season was cut short.
40 Years Ago: 1971
While I randomly picked the previous two games, I chose 1971 on purpose after the recent breaking news in the 1971 D.B. Cooper plane hijacking case. As of August 2nd, Cooper was some three-plus months from executing one of the most famous and controversial escapes/unsolved mysteries in recent US history. Back in Kansas City, the Royals were having their best season in the three-year history of the team. While the Royals' record only stood at 52-50, it was good enough for 2nd place in the AL West. They would go on to finish second that season, finishing at 85-76.
Unfortunately, the only team ahead of them in the standings was their opponent this day---the Oakland Athletics. The A's were dominant--12.5 games up in the division with a 66-39 record. This was only the fourth season in Oakland for the Athletics, having moved from Kansas City after the 1967 season. After finishing second the previous two seasons, 1971 was the year Oakland finally won the AL West. They would end with a 101-60 record, but would be swept out of the ALCS by Baltimore. However, it was the learning experience they needed in post-season play. The Athletics would build a mini-dynasty, winning the World Series in '72, '73, and '74.
|Oakland Athletics||Kansas City Royals|
|1||Bert Campaneris||SS||1||Freddie Patek||SS|
|2||Angel Mangual||LF||2||Joe Keough||RF|
|3||Reggie Jackson||RF||3||Amos Otis||CF|
|4||Tommy Davis||1B||4||Gail Hopkins||1B|
|5||Sal Bando||3B||5||Lou Piniella||LF|
|6||Gene Tenace||C||6||Cookie Rojas||2B|
|7||Rick Monday||CF||7||Paul Schaal||3B|
|8||Dick Green||2B||8||Ed Kirkpatrick||C|
|9||Diego Segui||P||9||Paul Splittorff||P|
Definitely some recognizable names in that lineup. Oakland's pitcher Diego Segui is a Cuban defector with an excellent forkball who had played for the A's while they were in Kansas City. His son, future major leaguer, David Segui, was born in KC and would even play some of his college baseball at KCK Community College. Diego also holds a unique honor---he pitched in the first game for both of Seattle's MLB teams. He came on in relief in the first-ever game for the Seattle Pilots in 1969, and was the starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners' first-ever game in 1977.
He was on the mound in Municipal Stadium in front of 14,000+ on this date 40 years ago, however, as the A's and Royals battled in an epic pitcher's duel. Neither team could mount much of a rally against either starter in the first few frames until Royals catcher Ed "Spanky" Kirkpatrick led off the third with a home run, his 8th of the season.
Splittorff showed some vulnerability in the next half-inning, as well, allowing Reggie Jackson and Tommy Davis to single leading off the inning. With runners at first and third, a sac fly from Sal Bando was good enough to even the score. Splitt retired the next two hitters on a flyout and strikeout to avoid further damage.
Neither team could manage another hit until Reggie Jackson came up again, this time in the top of the sixth. He singled, but was caught stealing in yet another scoreless frame for Splittorff. Segui was matching him frame-for-frame, though. He walked the lead-off hitter in the 4th and 5th, but worked around it each time. KC didn't manage another hit off of Segui until the bottom of the 6th when Gail Hopkins singled with one out, but Lou Pinella and Cookie Rojas couldn't advance the runner past first, and the game entered its final innings still deadlocked at one run apiece.
The top of the seventh finally saw the tie broken, but it wasn't in the Royals' favor. Oakland catcher Gene Tenace hit a one-out solo homer off of Splitt to give the A's a 2-1 lead. Tenace had been a draft pick of the A's when they were still in KC, and was currently serving as the backup to All-Star catcher Dave Duncan (yes, THAT Dave Duncan). However, Tenace had been pressed into starting duty since late July, as Duncan appears to have been injured at the time.
KC mounted a rally in the bottom of the seventh. Paul Schaal walked to lead off the inning, which also brought the end to Segui's day on the mound. Oakland brought in reliever Darold Knowles (unrelated to Beyonce, I'm assuming). Knowles had attended the University of Missouri and was not too far from his hometown of Brunswick, Missouri. He had been an All-Star in 1969 with the Washington Senators and was Oakland's main set-up man at the time for their young closer, a 24 year-old Rollie Fingers. Later in his career, he would become the only man to appear in all seven games of a World Series (doing so in the 1973 WS for Oakland). Simply amazing.
Knowles walked Kirkpatrick, bringing up the pitcher's spot in the order. Rather than pinch-hit, the Royals elected to let Splittorff (and his .040 batting average) attempt a sac bunt off the lefty reliever. Splitt bunted back to Knowles on the mound, and he was able to throw to third and get the lead runner. In came Rollie Fingers, who coerced a flyout and ground out to escape the inning D.B. Cooper style (Cue the craziness for bringing your closer in the SEVENTH INNING!!).
Splitt retired the side in order in the 8th, but Fingers did the same. After another Reggie Jackson single led off the ninth, Splitt was relieved by Jim York. York got a double play and groundout to send it to the bottom of the 9th, still a 2-1 Oakland lead.
Rollie Fingers was simply too good on this day for the Royals to mount a comeback. Cookie Rojas, Schaal, and Fitzpatrick were all retired by Fingers, the last on a strikeout to end the game. Rollie faced eight batters in the game and retired them all to earn his 12th save, epitomizing the definition of a 'fireman' out of the bullpen.