It was the bottom of the third and the Royals were already down 5-1. Elliot Johnson, yes, Elliot Johnson, had hit a monster home run (yes, a monster dong) and Kansas City had loaded the bases with one out. Lorenzo Cain had already worked Jeremy Hellickson for nine pitches, but grounded the tenth into an inning ending double play. Frankly, I thought the game was over at that point.
From back to back home runs by Joyce and Zobrist in the top of the first to Desmond Jennings running down Alex Gordon's gapper to start the bottom of the first to Cain's double play ball: it all added up to a night that would not go well for the boys.
Still, with a pelting sleet falling from my Lincoln, Nebraska sky and a third Busch Light tallboy in hand, I decided to hang in. It's winter in May for godssake and my wife and I sometimes have great fun making fun of Rex and Ryan; even in a losing effort.
Luis Mendoza gave up his third home run of the game in the top of the fourth and the Royals were back down by five again. The Royals answered with a run of their own in the fourth after Alex Gordon drove in Jeff Francoeur after Hellickson had the audacity to throw a pitched ball at Frenchy's billowing blouse.
Then, Kansas City, scored two more in a fifth inning highlighted by a Billy Butler double and a Lorenzo Cain triple. That was hopeful, but I have to admit that sinking feeling quickly returned when Bruce Chen allowed a lead-off single, followed by a walk, followed by a sacrifice bunt. Runners on second and third with just one out and the Royals had Chen on the mound. You know, the guy whose fastball might reach the mid-eighties.
As I have written before, this isn't 2011 or 2009 or 2006 or 2002 anymore. Bruce Chen, that magnificent bastard, struck out the next two hitters. Hope lives!
Then came the bottom of the sixth: a strange, magical, confluence of good fortune and a some decent at-bats.
Salvador Perez leads off with a solid single, but that was followed by Elliot Johnson popping up a bunt attempt foul and, when granted a reprieve by the baseball gods, bunting again....in the air...almost doubling Perez off first. Alex Gordon then hit a broken bat flare into right, followed by an Alcides Escobar poke into right. The Royals had the bases loaded on a good hit, a lucky hit and a quasi-decent swing/lucky poke.
Up came Billy Butler, who was already three for three, and he lined a ball back up the middle that Jake McGee's glove knocked down (I'll pay anyone $379 if they can prove to me that the McGee both saw that ball and put his glove there on purpose). Rather inexplicably, with both Yunel Escobar and Jose Lobaton yelling (and pointing) for McGee to throw home for the force of Perez, the Rays' reliever instead opted to throw to first.
Now down just a run, Eric Hosmer hit a bouncer to the aforementioned Escobar who muffed it not once, but twice, for a run scoring error: game tied. Lorenzo Cain followed that with a bloop single and the Royals had taken the lead. A Moustakas walk preceded a five hop single up the middle by Francoeur that scored two more runs and gave Kansas City a 9-6 lead. As it turns out, the only thing that could stop the Royals' onslaught (if two broken bats, two seeing eye singles, a mental error and a physical error can be called an onslaught) was a trio of ex-Royal relievers.
Kyle Farnsworth, Jamey Wright and Joel Peralta, however, silence the Kansas City bats too late to save Joe Maddon's Rays. While Tim Collins made it interesting by giving two runs back to Tampa in an ineffective seventh, he was saved by a solid four outs from Aaron Crow and a mow you down ninth by Greg Holland.
There's some snark in the above, but this was a really nice win. Sure, there was some good fortune, but let's not forget Jennings' catch and McGee's lucky swipe to knock down Butler's liner, either. Maybe karma played out about even tonight, after all.
I will leave you with a couple of gems from the FSKC broadcast crew:
Rex: "Mendoza didn't deserve the loss tonight." Really? There was nothing cheap about the Rays' six runs in four innings.
Ryan: "The Royals would rather have Lobaton bat left-handed versus Crow here than right-handed versus Collins." Uh, Ryan, the Royals would rather have had anyone batting from either side against anyone but Collins at that point.
First place, boys and girls.