The story this evening should have been almost completely about Yordano Ventura's opening foray into the WAR on racism at the Major League level. Through the first five innings, the Cleveland Racists mustered very little in the way of offense. Though a handful of Racist runners reached base in the opening five frames, none reached second base as Ventura skillfully induced weak contact in the first and second innings, erasing two runners he granted free passes to start off each inning by way of the double play and otherwise shutting down the Cleveland attack when runners had reached. Ventura did a wonderful job of mixing in his off-speed stuff, throwing his change and curve for strikes when he needed them the second time through the lineup.
Looking at the box score, one would think that he unraveled when the Racists were seeing him for the third time, but that wouldn't be the complete story.
Ventura started off the sixth by getting Michael Bourn to fly out weakly to shallow left center on the first pitch of the inning. On the second pitch of the inning, Nick Swisher hit a dribbler to Emilio Bonifacio that came up off the lip of the grass at the edge of the dirt. Bonifacio eventually corralled the ball, but was unable to get the ball cleanly to Hosmer, though it likely would have been too late to get Swisher at first anyway. With a runner on, Ventura painted the corner low and inside with an apparent 94-MPH cutter, getting a called third strike against Jason Kipnis. Carlos Santana then hit a single to right that Lough hesitated on initially before having the ball dive just out of his reach. With runners on the corners and 80 pitches in the books for Ventura, Michael Brantley came up and lined a 100-MPH fastball on a 3 - 2 count to right to drive in the first Racist run on the 86th and final pitch of the night for Yordano Ventura. After Will Smith was brought in to face the switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera only to walk him on five pitches for just his fifth walk of the season, Louis Coleman struck out Ryan Raburn on a wicked 3 - 2 off-speed pitch with the bases juiced.
At that point, the Royals were still up 3 - 1. Disaster had been averted.
Or at least until the next inning.
In the seventh, Ned Yost turned to Kelvin Herrera. Herrera struck out Lonnie Chisenhall to kick off the inning only to hit Yan Gomes in the ribs with a 0 - 1 change-up. Michael Bourn then tripled to deep right with the ball dying at the base of the wall. With the Royals now nursing a 3 - 2 lead, Herrera stayed in to face Nick Swisher with Rome burning all around him. Swisher took a 3 - 0 fastball to deep left, plating the tying run when it seemed obvious that Herrera didn't have it tonight.
To kick off the eighth, Wade Davis walked Carlos Santana on a 3 - 2 curve that missed low in the dirt. Michael Brantley followed with a grounder to first, advancing pinch-runner Drew Stubbs to second. Asdrubal Cabrera then sent a fly ball slicing to left that sailed just a bit on Alex Gordon and glanced off his outstretched, leaping glove, plating the go-ahead run as Gordon recovered and threw the ball back into the infield holding Cabrera to two. Davis eventually worked his way out of the jam, getting Cabrera at third on a grounder to Escobar--who astutely went for the lead runner on an ill-advised attempt to try to get to third on a routine grounder to the left side of the infield--only to be undermined by his defense again on a Lonnie Chisenhall chopper that Bonifacio dropped on the transfer from the glove to the hand before finally sending down Yan Gomes on a grounder ripped right back up the middle to him and getting out of the inning.
With the Royals already down 4 - 3, Luke Hochevar allowed a Michael Bourn home run to start off the ninth before striking out Nick Swisher, walking Jason Kipnis on a full-count fastball that missed up and away, and doubling up Jason Giambi--on the fabled 3 - 6 - 3 double-play--two pitches later.
Perhaps it's unfair to blame Herrera's blown save on Yost, but with the full complement of his bullpen at his avail, Yost pulled Louis Coleman after having faced just one batter, and then proceeded to leave Herrera in after hitting a batter and giving up an RBI-triple in what had been a two-run game. With the margin for error being razor-thin at this juncture, Yost left Herrera in with a runner on third, needing two outs to hold up the lead. The rest of the bullpen didn't help matters, and neither did the defense, two of the keys to the Royals' success this season. The next two pitchers to enter the game also allowed runs to score, though Davis's go-ahead run allowed was hard-luck to be sure. Whether or not that was bound to happen regardless of the Herrera meltdown depends largely upon one's belief in such things as momentum or fate, two subjects which I'll refrain from getting into this evening.
For their part, the Royals offense didn't get much done after the third inning. Hosmer started things off with an RBI-double, driving in Bonifacio and giving Ventura a 1 - 0 lead to work with. With the bases loaded in the third, Salvador Perez hit a sac-fly to left, plating Bonifacio from third. Mike Moustakas then hit his second double of the night, sending Hosmer home and advancing Billy Butler to third. Unfortunately, that was it for the Royals run total.
But really, the larger cost of this game cannot be seen in the Loss-column or in the Wild Card picture in which the Royals are fading faster than the McFly children in a photograph as Lorraine lusts after her son. Yordano Ventura's on-going blood feud with racism hit the national stage, but no Racists fell at his hand. This was a sad day for this country--nay, the world. The Racists are alive and well, and their hatred prevailed on the somber eve.