This Date in Royals History: July 20--Maybe the 'pen didn't lose it in the 8th while our closer was in witness protection

Kansas City Royals Baseball: Distracting ourselves from the current regime through Baseball Reference!

While it would certainly be appropriate to post another FanShot demonstrating the nitwit-like tendencies of the current Kansas City Royals, I thought it may be a good time to call for the changeup--instead offering up another installment of "This Day in Royals History." Once again, all credit goes to Baseball Reference....and once again, I'll provide you with a soundtrack to accompany the randomly selected box score I'm featuring (courtesy of YouTube & Yahoo! Music).

This time I just happened to click on 1988, so we'll be taking a long look at July 20, 1988--a mere score (plus one year) from today. My Yahoo!* Music player is currently set for 1980's country hits, which just seems like the perfect background for a hot, summer afternoon in 1988. Our first track features a man who I last saw on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice (the only time I watched the show). He seemed like a jerk on the show, but this is a classic:

*(what's with exclamation? has anyone ever used the word yahoo without being excited?)

The 1988 Kansas City Royals went 84-77 (three games worse than their Pythag expected record), good enough to finish 3rd in the AL West, a mere 19.5 games back in the division race. A stunning 12 wins that season came against the Baltimore Orioles, as the Royals did not lose a game to Baltimore the entire year. The Royals sent three players to the All-Star Game that year, and I bet you could guess a number of times before coming to the correct triumvirate of these gentlemen:


All three men played, Brett pinch-hitting in the 9th and flying out against Todd Worrell, Stillwell playing the bottom of the 9th on defense, and Gubicza pitching two innings (getting a hold, but also allowing the only run for the NL) of relief in the AL's win in Cincinnati.

The Royals were sitting at 46-41 in the standings, and just 7.5 back (this is the Oakland vs Los Angeles World Series year--Kirk Gibson heroics) at the All-Star break, still within reasonable striking distance of Oakland's Bash Brothers & Co. However, things went horribly wrong after the All-Star Game.

Kansas City was swept in a four-games-in-three-days series (yay doubleheaders!) at Fenway, with all three games being decided by three runs or less. The Red Sox were in third place in the AL East at the time, and were managed by Joe Morgan! Talk about embarrassing....getting swept by Mr. Consistency? Ok, ok, so it's not THAT Joe Morgan. But it would've been funny if it was.

After the miserable trip to Boston, the Royals headed to Milwaukee's County Stadium to square off with the Brewers in a three game series. Sadly, the road trip was not any better to KC in Joel Goldberg's collegiate stomping grounds of Wisconsin as the Royals lost the first two games of the series, managing to score two measly runs in those games (one in each game). The six-game losing streak was a season-high for the team, matching an unfortunate string of games in May--which ironically,* were all home games. July 20th was the final game of the road trip---a Wednesday afternoon "get-away day." Would this be the day John Wathan's Royals broke the losing streak which saw them drop from 7.5 games back to a devastating 11 games from first? We'll find out after the next musical interlude:

*Looking for confirmation from Alanis Morissette on the proper usage of 'ironic' in this situation.

July 20th, 1988--Twenty-one Years Ago

The last "This Day in Royals History" I examined also featured a road game in Milwaukee, and the game turned out to be a high-scoring, error-filled comeback affair for Kansas City. The 1988 game would not replicate the 1999 version of Brewers/Royals. Here is the pitching matchup for the game:

Charlie_leibrandt_pose_medium 666600101_medium

Charlie Leibrandt was in his fifth season with the Royals in 1988. He'd started a Meche-ian 126 games in those first four years, logging over 850 innings in that timeframe while accumulating a 58-38 record. He would go on to throw a career-high 243 innings for KC in 1988 (good for 10th in the league), winning 13 games in the process.

Teddy Higuera had been a phenom for the Brewers ever since having his contract purchased from the Mexican League. He went 15-8 his rookie year in 1985, good for second in the Rookie of the Year voting (to Ozzie Guillen). He'd won 20 games in 1986 with a whopping 15 complete games. He was the first Mexican-born pitcher to win 20 games in MLB, and was rewarded for his success with another second place finish, this time in the AL Cy Young voting (Roger Clemens won with a 24-4 record). He dropped to 18 wins (and 260 IP) and sixth in the Cy Young vote in 1987, but he was still a very successful pitcher going into the 1988 season. In fact, he led the league with a WHIP of 0.999 in 1988. Sadly, it would be his last truly great year as a multitude of injuries (back, ankle, rotator cuff) limited his effectiveness after the 1988 season.

It would've been nice to see what he could've become if injuries hadn't plagued his career. The first four comparables on his Baseball Reference page are John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb, and Carlos Zambrano. Yeah. Pretty freaking good. However, he has stayed involved in the game through coaching, having recently served as Joakim Soria's pitching coach for Team Mexico in both World Baseball Classics.

Next, the lineups...brought to you courtesy of Kanye Conway Twitty:


   Kansas City Royals                        Milwaukee Brewers                            
1. Willie Wilson CF 1. Paul Molitor DH
2. Bill Pecota SS 2. Jim Gantner 2B
3. Kevin Seitzer 3B 3. Jeffrey Leonard LF
4. George Brett 1B 4. Robin Yount CF
5. Danny Tartabull RF 5. Dale Sveum SS
6. Frank White DH 6. Joey Meyer 1B
7. Bo Jackson LF 7. Bill Schroeder C
8. Mike Macfarlane C 8. Darryl Hamilton RF
9. Brad Wellman 2B 9. Juan Castillo 3B

Charlie Leibrandt P Teddy Higuera P

Willie Wilson was getting up in years (32) and was in his last few seasons as a player for the Royals in 1988, though he still led the league in triples in 1988. Seitzer was coming off his league leading 200+ hit rookie season, and Brett managed to stay healthy for 157 games in '88, which allowed him to rack up over 20 HR and 100 RBI, good enough for another Silver Slugger. Tartabull also put up 20+ dongs and 100+ RBI, and though Frank White was in his upper 30's, this was the season he made a career-low four errors all season, yet explicably did not get a Gold Glove. Instead the honor went to Harold Reynolds, he of the 18 errors and -2.8 Fielding Runs Above Average. Nice work. Bo was 25, and in his second season with the Royals. He also hit over 20 jacks (where is this power now for the Royals?). A young Mike MacFarlane was in his first full season of what would become a long tenure with KC, and Wellman is probably the only unrecognizable name in our lineup. Besides being the brother-in-law of Tom Candiotti, he was signed by KC, then traded before he became a major leaguer in the Vida Blue deal. Once he was released, he came back to KC as a free agent, and played sparingly as a defensive replacement in '88 and '89 before retiring.

As for the game, it was a pure pitchers' duel between Leibrant and Higuera. Seeing that the Royals had only scored two runs in 18 innings in the first two games of the series, this was no surprise--especially when you consider how good Teddy Higuera was. But Leibrant was no slouch either, and he pitched like a man looking to stop a season-long losing streak.

Seitzer hit a two-out double in the top of the first to immediately give the Royals a scoring opportunity, but Brett struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch to strand KC's first runner of the game. Another runner wouldn't reach second base until the bottom of the third, when Paul Molitor broke Leibrant's streak of six consecutive batters retired with a two-out single up the middle, and then swiped second base. However, that's as far as he'd get, as Jim Ganter grounded out to end the inning. At this point in the game, eight of the nine outs for Milwaukee had been recorded on ground balls, with lone outcast being Robin Yount's first inning strikeout. After 3: KC 0 MIL 0

Higuera continued to baffle KC hitters, striking out four of the next five before Mike MacFarlane was able to break through with the Royals' second hit of the game with a two-out single in the top of the 5th. But Wellman grounded out to end the inning. Leibrant also allowed a runner in the bottom half of the 5th on a Darryl Hamilton two-out walk. Charlie then compounded the problem with a balk, giving Milwaukee its first runner in scoring position of the day. But he got out of it by inducing a flyout to Wilson in center for the final out of the fifth. KC 0 MIL 0

Higuera breezed through the top of the KC order in the sixth on 12 pitches, and Leibrant topped that performance in the bottom of the frame by wiping out the top of the Milwaukee order in a mere six pitches. Not to be outdone, Higuera made it through the top of the seventh in five pitches when Brett singled on a 1-1 pitch, Tartabull hit into a 6-4-3 DP on the first pitch, and Frank White also made an out on the first pitch, lining out to left field.

Amazingly, Leibrant had a chance to match this pitching efficiency when he retired the first two Brewer batters of the bottom of the 7th after four pitches. It didn't happen, though, as Joey Meyer doubled down the line. With a 0-0 game, Milwaukee decided to pinch-run with one of the greatest names in baseball--Billie Jo Robidoux. I don't know his name really rhymes, but in my head, it does---------and it's spectacular.


Leibrant was somehow able to settle himself after watching the uber-brilliance of Robidoux make an appearance, as he struck out Bill Schroeder to end the inning. End 7 KC 0 MIL 0

KC couldn't sniff a baserunner against Higuera in the 8th or 9th, but Leibrant kept matching him frame-for-frame, until giving way to Jeff Montgomery in the bottom of the 9th in a 0-0 game. How scary is that thought? Relax...this is before Monty became a closer at all, let alone a closer with a bad habit of blowing leads late in games. This was his first full season in the majors, as the Royals had traded for him from Cincinnati just before Spring Training in 1988. Despite being a rookie, he was pitching out of the bullpen in fairly meaningful situations, usually in the 6th, 7th, or 8th inning. He had been used for as little as one out, or as much as three innings--and had appeared in a "high pressure" situation in 11 of his 16 appearances so far in 1988. With a 2-1 record, four holds, and a 3.60 ERA, he was making a nice name for himself in the KC 'pen.

Entering a scoreless game in the 9th, there was obviously no room for error. He retired the first two of the inning before giving up a double to Dale Sveum, sending Milwaukee's chances of winning the game from 54% to 61%. But Billie Jo Robidoux grounded out to end the threat and send this game to extras!!!!!!!!! End 9 KC 0 MIL 0


Going into extra frames the Royals had scored two runs in its 27 innings in Milwaukee during the series, and with the game in the hands of the bullpen, things weren't exactly looking up for KC. However, a bit of good news came with the removal of Teddy Higuera from the game after 9 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 10 K in his 106-pitch masterpiece. Chuck Crim came on in relief to face the heart of the KC order in the 10th. He was up to the task, striking out Brett and Tartabull to begin the 10th. But then he gave up a single to Frank White and walked Bo Jackson to give KC a rare scoring chance. Macfarlane flied out to end the threat. After 9 1/2 KC 0 MIL 0

Montgomery stayed on in relief and continued his effectiveness, as he needed just eight pitches to work the bottom of the 10th on two flyouts and a groundout. Stillwell reached on a wild pitch on a strikeout (aka "an Olivo"), but was stranded in the 11th for KC, but Milwaukee was set down in order again by Montgomery in the bottom half--this time on 11 pitches. After 11 KC 0 MIL 0

The get-away day hackfest continued in the 12th, as both teams tried their hardest to get the game over ASAP, but to no avail. Neither squad could muster a baserunner in the inning; KC saw 7 pitches, the Brewers saw 10. After 12 KC 0 MIL 0

Going into the 13th, Chuck Crim had thrown 43 pitches over his three excellent innings, and he was pulled in favor of Tom Filer. Who? I don't know either. Looks like he pitched for Toronto in 1985, going 7-0 as a starter. But then he didn't make another appearance in the bigs until Milwaukee picked him up in 1988--so I'm guessing he got hurt*

*Upon further research, I found this bizarrely appropriate article describing who the heck Tom Filer is. Looks like he is part of a pretty exclusive club! And yes, he did get hurt--late in 1985--so he never pitched in the post-season vs. the Royals that year. Here's an excerpt from the above-linked article.

Unfortunately, baseball-reference’s Play Index only goes back to 1956 but I found 10 pitchers with 16 or more consecutive team wins when they started a game since ‘56. Here’s the list of those 10 pitchers:

20 – Roger Clemens, New York Yankees (May 26, 2001 – Sept. 19, 2001)
19 – Aaron Sele, Seattle Mariners (Sept. 5, 2000 – June 12, 2001)
19 – Tom Filer, Cubs/Blue Jays/Brewers (June 23, 1982 – June 14, 1988)
18 – Chuck Finley, Anaheim Angels (July 1, 1997 – May 2, 1998)
17 – Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (June 14, 2005 – Sept. 13, 2005)
17 – Brian Anderson, Arizona Diamondbacks (July 24, 1999 – May 23, 2000)
17 – Whitey Ford, New York Yankees (June 2, 1961 – Aug. 10, 1961)
16 – Randy Johnson, Seattle Mariners (Aug. 11, 1995 – April 26, 1996)
16 – La Marr Hoyt, Chicago White Sox (July 27, 1983 – April 10, 1984)
16 – Ron Guidry, New York Yankees (April 13, 1978 – July 2, 1978)

Tom Filer? TOM FILER??? There’s a Hall of Famer, six Cy Young Award winners, seven postseason game winners, eight former All-Stars and Tom Filer on this list. Not only is Tom Filer an oddity, his streak spanned nearly six years and three different teams:

So where were we? Oh 13 in a scoreless game on get-away day. I'm sure all of the players were loving this. Thankfully Tom Filer obliged the Royals nearly-extinct bats with this beautiful sequence:

B. Jackson singled to CF.
M. Macfarlane struck out.
Bill Buckner pinch hits for T. Wellman.
B. Buckner singled to CF, B. Jackson advanced to 2b.
Dan Plesac replaced Tom Filer pitching for Milwaukee.
Nick Capra pinch ran for B. Buckner (WHO IS NICK CAPRA??????)*
W. Wilson singled to LF, B. Jackson scored, N. Capra to 2b!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1-0 KC
K. Stillwell flied out to 2b.
K. Seitzer walked, N. Capra to 3b, W.Wilson to 2b (look at that plate discipline for Seitz)
G. Brett doubled to RF, N. Capra scored, W. Wilson scored, K. Seitzer scored 4-0 KC
D. Tartabull flied out to RF.

How about that offensive outburst? After two runs in 21 innings, the Royals put up an avalanche of four runs thanks to the shaky relief work of Filer and Plesac. After Top 13 KC 4 MIL 0

*Oh yeah...Nick Capra. Anyone heard of this guy? Looks like he was a very bad outfielder, putting up a .167/.262/.241 line in his career, which consisted of 61 plate appearances over five seasons. In 1988 the Royals gave him the most playing time he ever earned in the bigs, and he rewarded them with a 4-29 effort at the plate over 14 games. After retiring, he headed into coaching. He managed for 11 seasons in the White Sox system, including the Burlington Bees. He is currently the White Sox minor league hitting coordinator. I wonder if he discusses his glory days in KC with Buddy Bell. Next thought--how is he qualified to be a hitting coordinator with those major league numbers? Wait....I just realized that the Royals have a current manager who couldn't even put up this guy's numbers in the low minors. Get this cat on the horn right now Dayton!!!!!!! I'm sure he has impeccable class and is a great communicator too!

Going into the bottom of the 13th, the Royals were pretty thin with bench players. Earlier in the game Pat Tabler had been used as a pinch-hitter for Bill Pecota. Since Tabler couldn't play middle infield, Stillwell replaced Tabler, burning two bench spots. When Bill Buckner reached base as a pinch hitter in the top of the 13th, he was pinch run for with Capra--an outfielder. It seems as if the Royals didn't have any options to play second base left on the bench, because John Wathan took his DH, Frank White, and inserted him into the game to play second. This meant Jeff Montgomery would now have to bat in the rare instance that Milwaukee tied the game and it went further into extras.

Now, you may be thinking---Jeff Montgomery is still in the game? Hasn't he pitched four innings of relief already? Yes, and yes. But he had retired 10 straight hitters. Plus, he had thrown 44 pitches in the 9th-12th, and he'd thrown more than that on a couple of occasions earlier in 1988. But he'd never gone this long into a game out of the bullpen. Cincinnati had given him one start in '87, and he lasted five innings in that game. Despite the large number of "up and downs"---to borrow a Treydaddy term---Monty miraculously did not have his arm spontaneously combust on the mound for having to record

15 outs in a game as a Major League relief pitcher!!!!!!1111111cueTrey'sheadexploding1111111111

Scanners-exploding-head-3_medium Monty breezed through the bottom of the 13th, needing just seven pitches to earn game GRITMASTER honors to seal the slump-busting victory for the good ol' Boys in Blue. Despite the 13 innings, the game was played in three hours and 24 minutes thanks to the lack of hits and quick at-bats. Here is the final box score:

Kansas City Royals           AB   R   H RBI   BB  SO    BA   OPS  Pit  Str   PO   A  Details
W Wilson CF 6 1 1 1 0 0 .272 .636 18 15 2 0
B Pecota SS 3 0 0 0 0 2 .158 .415 14 11 2 4
P Tabler PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 .261 .660 3 2 0 0
K Stillwell SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 .252 .743 5 5 1 1
K Seitzer 3B 5 1 1 0 1 2 .316 .821 24 13 0 3 2B
G Brett 1B 6 0 2 3 0 3 .333 .947 25 17 21 0 2B
D Tartabull RF 5 0 0 0 1 2 .275 .880 19 10 1 0 GDP
F White DH-2B 5 0 1 0 0 1 .261 .670 15 11 0 1
B Jackson LF 4 1 1 0 1 3 .264 .765 25 17 2 0
M Macfarlane C 5 0 1 0 0 1 .268 .736 14 10 8 0
B Wellman 2B 4 0 0 0 0 1 .241 .540 13 9 2 9
B Buckner PH 1 0 1 0 0 0 .242 .601 2 1 0 0
N Capra PR 0 1 0 0 0 0 .111 .384 0 0
J Montgomery P-P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

C Leibrandt P 0 0
Totals 47 4 8 0 3 16 177 121 39 19

Kansas City Royals            IP     H   R  ER   BB  SO  HR    ERA   BF  Pit-Str  Ct·Sw·Lk   GB·FB·LD· ?   GmSc  IR-IS   LevI    WPA
C Leibrandt 8 4 0 0 2 4 0 3.76 29 101-62 31·11·18 15· 8· 3· 0 76 - 1.09 0.55
J Montgomery, W (3-1) 5 1 0 0 0 3 0 3.00 16 51-36 24· 2·10 8· 5· 1· 0 0-0 1.71 0.56
Totals 13 5 0 0 2 7 0 45 152-98 55·13·28 23·13· 4· 0 -
Milwaukee Brewers             IP     H   R  ER   BB  SO  HR    ERA   BF  Pit-Str  Ct·Sw·Lk   GB·FB·LD· ?   GmSc  IR-IS   LevI    WPA
T Higuera 9 3 0 0 1 10 0 2.39 30 106-74 45·14·14 7·12· 5· 0 90 - 1.12 0.68
C Crim 3 1 0 0 1 5 0 2.30 12 43-30 16· 8· 5 2· 4· 2· 0 0-0 2.19 0.41
T Filer, L (5-4) 0.1 2 2 2 0 1 0 3.59 3 9-7 5· 1· 1 0· 2· 2· 0 0-0 2.97 -0.08
D Plesac 0.2 2 2 2 1 0 0 2.36 5 19-10 9· 1· 0 0· 4· 2· 0 2-2 1.94 -0.40
Totals 13 8 4 4 3 16 0 50 177-121 75·24·20 9·22·11· 0 2-2

I don't know about you, but this type of win deserves another 1980's country classic that was likely played hundreds of times after KC Royals games on the various Midwest radio stations spanning the Royals Radio Network.

Honorable Mention:

Seven Years Ago--2002: The Royals won the first game of a doubleheader with Cleveland on a scorching 97 degree day to run their amazing winning streak to nine games with a 7-5 win. Sadly, despite the winning streak the Royals were still 12 games under .500 in the final days of Tony Pena's managerial career with KC. AJ Hinch hit a 2-run HR off of Jake Westbrook to charge the Royal attack, and former great Brandon Berger also picked up 2 RBI in support of Runeylvs Hernandez, who won his first major league game (in his 2nd start). The magic didn't follow through to the second game, as the Royals lost 5-3 in 10 innings when Ellis Burks hit a bomb that still hasn't landed. The loss wasted a solid pitching effort from Shawn Sedlacek and Jason Grimsley. Brad Voyles got the loss.*
*Now that I think about it, I was in attendance for these games, and the stadium was electric for the winning streak. They had over 36K fans in attendance, and it was a great atmosphere. I still remember some drunk guy out there in right field general admission with us yelling at the Cleveland players. His best jeer was "SHUEY AINT POOEY," which Paul Shuey shook off to win the second game of the doubleheader....but he wasn't done there. No sir. He also was loudly supporting the Royals. His best pro-Royals cheer is still a line that my buddies will toss around from time to time:

GO MICHAEL TUCKER................HE'S MY MOTHER F#%$&R!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11


(go on wit' 'cha bad self, Mike)

Sixteen Years Ago: 1993--
The Royals lost 7-0 and were one-hit by Baltimore's Ben McDonald, who improved to 7-8 on the season for the first-place Orioles. David Cone took the loss for KC, while Mark Gubicza pitched one inning of relief. Harold Baines homered and had three RBI for the Orioles. Gary Gaetti had KC's only hit, a two-out single in the 4th inning on a "line drive to deep SS," whatever that is. Rico Rossy made a sweet appearance on defense late in the game for the Royals, and Baltimore's starting third basemen was Tim Hulett, father of current Royal Tug Hulett.

Thirty-five Years Ago: 1974--
Jack McKeon's Royals fell to 47-46 (3rd place) with a 6-2 loss in New York to the Yankees in George Brett's first full season with the Royals. The game wasn't even that close, as the Royals scored both of their runs in the top of the 9th, and they only managed two hits on the day--both of which came to leadoff the 9th inning. Steve Busby had a rough outing for KC, as he had to be pulled before he could even record an out in the 2nd inning, giving up a total of four runs on seven hits and a walk. Doc Medich threw the near no-hitter, but settled for the complete game for the Yanks. He was coming off a 14-9 year that netted him third place honors in the Rookie of the Year balloting, and managed to improve that mark to 19-15 in 1974--which would become his best year of his 11-year career which saw him win 124 games against 105 losses.
Royals catcher Fran Healy broke up the no-no with a single leading off the 9th, and Richie Scheinblum collected a pinch-hit double as the next batter. Healy scored on a wild pitch, and Scheinblum scored on a groundout for KC. Interestingly, Doc Medich was later traded for Dock Ellis in perhaps the only Doc-for-Dock trade in MLB history. Dock Ellis is a guy who actually DID throw a no-hitter, but he claimed he was on LSD at the time......seriously. He also beaned Reggie Jackson in the face, and some said it was in retaliation for the HR he hit off of him in the 1971 All-Star game that hit the light tower in Detroit's Tiger Stadium. Here is a very inside look at his intimidating, crazy personality (and life).


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