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Bullpen, Royals Squander Lead With Sweep on the Line in Minnesota

Mike Estabrook hates freedom, Billy Butler.
Mike Estabrook hates freedom, Billy Butler.

With a chance to sweep the Twins for the first time in a long amount of time that I have neither the time nor desire to figure out myself, the Royals blew a 3 - 1 lead in the bottom of the eighth, allowing a run apiece in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings, blowing a save, "earning" an ejection, injuring a centerfield, and losing a game in a quick and horrifying fashion befitting this franchise.

Starting with the happenings in the eighth, Kelvin Herrera dug himself a hole, recording two outs but loading the bases before being pulled in favor of closer Greg Holland. Holland walked the first hitter he faced (Josh Willingham), bringing the second Twins' run across the plate in anticlimactic fashion before striking out Justin Morneau to get out of the inning.

The Royals went quietly in the top of the ninth inning, still up 3 - 2 with their closer having already faced two batters but having gotten the Royals out of the jam limiting the damage to one run allowed. The first batter Holland faces? Hangs dong. Trevor Plouffe, whose surname evokes internal juvenile laughter every time I hear it in my head, smashed a fastball and tied up the game as soon as the Twins got the chance. Holland summarily disposed of the next three Twins, overwhelmingly striking down the non-threatening pair of Darin Mastroianni and Eduardo Escobar before inducing a pop out in foul territory off the bat of Drew Butera. He got out of the inning without losing the game, but the damage was done.

Then came the top of the tenth.

I'm not one to harp on officiating or blown calls all that often. Generally it seems like a cop-out, and fans use blown calls as a starting point from which to construct alternate realities in which the team they devote so much time to wins in some way eradicating an injustice. For at least the second time in three seasons, Mike Estabrook has embarrassingly--at the very least for Major League Baseball and his family if he lacks the self-awareness to know to be ashamed of his ridiculous actions--run off a Royal, taking off his mask, stepping out from behind the catcher and getting in the face of said player.

This time it was Billy Butler who got ejected in the middle of an at-bat in a 3 - 3 tie game with a runner in scoring position in extras, after he appeared to comment on a called second strike with which he [incorrectly] didn't necessarily agree. Butler said something, but then turned away moving past the call. Mike Estabrook, however, wasn't done. Butler seemed to be mumbling to himself, and then Estabrook escalated things, pulling his mask off and stepping into the right-handed batter's box to get in Butler's face and toss him.

You might remember a similar incident in 2010 in which Jason Kendall was tossed by Mike Estabrook, who took umbrage at having been spoken to from Kendall's crouch and came around to the home plate side of the catcher to get in Kendall's face and toss him. Just as he was then, Estabrook proved to not care to strongly about generally accepted protocol, eschewing professionalism for his brand of ego-stroking power tripping.

Even if Butler doesn't get tossed, it still felt like the Royals were going to find a way to blow this game. Perhaps that's the defeatist in me speaking, but a loss already seemed inevitable. That said, Estabrook was way out of line, a thought that even the Twins' broadcasters shared, and hopefully he'll be reprimanded/suspended. Regardless, it would seem that the Royals were well on their way to a loss whether or not Butler had gotten tossed.

In the bottom of the tenth, Francisely No Bueno wasted zero time ending the game, failing to record an out but succeeding in giving up a gapper to right-center field that saw Lorenzo Cain come up lame on after diving to try to grab the ball. Alexi Casilla stood at second with no outs, and Denard Span hit the game-winner over the head of an out-of-position and discombobulated Eric Hosmer in right field.

All of the Royals runs came by the fifth inning, with two in the first and one in the fifth. The Royals were atypically patient this evening, working the count for five walks. Every Royal starter reached base but Johnny Giavotella. Alex Gordon doubled for the ML-leading 47th time, extending his lead in the category by three over Aramis Ramirez, and his AL-lead to five over Albert Pujols. Butler and Cain joined him in the doubles party, and David Lough tripled in the fifth to be driven in by Butler three batters later. They cashed in their 13 base-runners for only three runs, so really the Royals have no one but themselves to blame for tonight's loss.