The Kansas City Royals snapped their eight game losing streak against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night/Friday morning, coming back in the top of the ninth inning to win the game 4-2. The Royals, however, nearly lost the game despite the ninth inning comeback, thanks to a strange rule on suspending baseball games.
We'll start the recap in the top of the ninth inning. The Royals were trailing the Cardinals 2-1, and looked on the verge of wasting another impressive starting pitching performance with a dismal offense. The Cardinals closer, Edward Mujica, was unavailable to pitch after closing the team's past three victories over the Royals, so Mike Matheny summoned Mitchell Boggs from the bullpen to close the game.
Jeff Francoeur led off the inning against Boggs, and cracked a solo home run into leftfield to tie the ballgame. Frenchy's solo home run actually started a rally, contradicting everything I've been told about baseball. Alex Gordon followed Francoeur with a walk, which prompted Matheny to replace Boggs with Victor Marte.
Marte proceed to plunk Alcides Escobar with a pitch on the hand to put two runners on. David Lough dropped down a sacrifice bunt on the next pitch, but the bunt was not well executed. Marte fielded the ball quickly and fired to third, but the throw was a little low. Matt Carpenter failed to scoop the ball cleanly, which left the bases loaded for Eric Hosmer.
Hosmer did not look particularly impressive, bouncing a groundball down the first base line. The ball, however, bounced high and over Allen Craig at first base, driving in Gordon and Escobar. Matheny then called for an intentional walk of Chris Getz, which loaded the bases a second time with no outs.
The rain, which delayed the start of the game by one hour, really started to pour following the intentional walk, which prompted umpire Joe West to delay the game a second time. The rain kept coming for the next few hours, which made suspending the game a real possibility.
According to the rules, the game would need to be suspended because the visiting team was leading and had received more at-bats than the home team. Normally when a game is suspended, the two teams meet on another day, and resume playing in the same game situation.
Thanks to an obscure rule in the Official Rule Book, if West had decided to suspend this game, the Royals would have actually lost to the Cardinals despite taking the lead in the ninth inning. The rule states that if the last game between two teams is suspended, any inning that is incomplete would be wiped out. So the game would have reverted back to the end of the eighth inning, and the Royals would have officially lost 2-1.
It seemed for awhile that the Royals were going to lose a game where they outscored their opponent, as the rain kept pouring late into the night. Thankfully the umpires and the Royals were determined to finish the game when the Cardinals ground crew lifted the tarp at 2 AM.
The Cardinals were understandably less enthused about resuming play, since they had everything to gain if West decided to call the game. Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak were on the field checking out the conditions, undoubtedly trying to convince the umpires that the field was unplayable. Nedy Yost and Dayton Moore also spent time on the field, lobbying to give Kansas City a chance to win the game.
The St. Louis grounds crew also looked disinterested in resuming the game. Bob Dutton phrased their effort perfectly:
Will admit I know even less about groundskeeping than most things, but this crew appears to be moving with (let's say) deliberate speed.— Bob Dutton (@Royals_Report) May 31, 2013
Jeremy Guthrie and Gordon actually helped the crew place drying compound on the playing field, which was kind of awesome.
West spent a decent amount of time on the phone, most likely talking to someone from MLB. It was definitely in MLB's interests to resume play, as the Royals and their fans would have had an understandable meltdown had they lost on a technicality.
Despite the long-rain delay and less than stellar effort of the home team to resume play, the game started up 4:32 minutes later. Joe Kelly pitched to Miguel Tejada with the bases loaded and nobody out. Tejada promptly grounded into a 1-2-3 double play, leaving runners at second and third with two outs. Kelly intentionally walked Elliot Johnson to reload the bases, but Adam Moore hit a flyout to end the inning.
Greg Holland came onto close for the Royals, forcing three groundouts on the muddy diamond to end the game. The official time of the game was 2:27 minutes, with 5:23 minutes worth of rain delays.
The team's offense came to life at the end of the game, but looked inept against St. Louis rookie Michael Wacha. Wacha looked stellar in his debut, only allowing one run on two hits in 7 innings. The right-handed fanned six Royals and walked none.
Kansas City scored their only run against Wacha in the top of the fifth inning. Lorenzo Cain smacked a one-out double, and Johnson drove the centerfielder in with a two-out single.
Guthrie started the game for the Royals, and got tagged for two runs in the first inning. Carpenter hit a lead-off double, and came home on a Craig two-out single. Yadier Molina and David Freese followed with back-to-back singles of their own, driving in Craig for the Cardinals second run.
The veteran starter settled down after the first to pitch five more innings. Guthrie allowed eight hits in six innings, fanning six hitters while only issuing one walk. Tim Collins recorded the first two outs of the seventh inning before being replaced by Louis Coleman, who picked up the last out of the seventh and all three outs in the eighth. Thanks to the Royals comeback, Coleman was credited with the victory.