The top of the ninth inning seemed pretty irrelevant when it unfolded. The Royals were down 3-0 and had managed two two-out singles against A's hurler Tommy Milone through eight innings. Milone, who beat Kansas City 2-1 earlier this year, had once again dominated the Royals as he does no one else.
By the time J.C. Gutierrez trudged to the mound for the final frame, Milone had allowed a total of 3 runs and 18 hits in 29 career innings pitched. So while it was annoying when Gutierrez allowed three hits and a Lorenzo Cain error in right let three more runs score to give Oakland a six run lead, it was hardly anything to get too upset about. After all, Milone had not yet thrown 90 pitches and Oakland would also have Grant Balfour in the bullpen who was 21 for 21 in save opportunities.
After a Jarrod Dyson fly out to start the bottom of the ninth, the Royals finally showed life. A David Lough double, then an Alcides Escobar double (Esky, by the way, looked awful previous to that), then a Hosmer single and a Butler single and the game suddenly was 6-2 with two on and just one out.
Oakland turned to Balfour to do what he does, but Salvador Perez (is he an All-Star?) greeted him with a single to pull Kansas City to within three and bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Lorenzo Cain. Balfour threw Cain five straight sliders, the last of which he grounded to third and forced Perez at second.
The Royals still had life and the tying run at the plate, but Balfour got Mike Moustakas to flail at a curveball in the dirt for strike one and, after a ball, got the Royals' third baseman to ground a slider to second for the final out of the game.
It was a nice rally, but one foiled not so much by Grant Balfour, but by a poorly pitched and poorly played top of the ninth inning. The Royals have now managed eight runs in four games - all losses - to Oakland this season.
Some quick observations:
- David Lough uncorked two pretty awful throws from left-field tonight. Do both of those runners score with Alex Gordon in left? Do the A's even try to score them if Gordon is out there?
- Not only did Milone limit Kansas City to just two hits in the first eight innings, but the Royals really did not hit a ball very hard. They sent Josh Reddick to the warning track in right twice, but those were the closest to anything interesting from the offense prior to the bottom of the ninth.
- Wade Davis had a good night. Eight strikeouts over seven innings, just one walk and six hits allowed. He was also throwing his four-seam fastball with regularity at 95 mph tonight after averaging 92-93 most of the season. Just a spike? Or the K's notoriously hot gun? The Oakland hitters did seem to be behind on more than one fastball, so Davis had something working for him tonight.