There are many great things in Australia. Great deserts, great reefs, great opera houses, great accents—but not great baseball players. At least, not until today. Liam Hendriks may not be a great baseball player, but he definitely had a great game. Filling in for Yordano Ventura, Hendriks gave up a sole run on a pair of back-to-back hits in the seventh inning. Striking out five, he walked none, only allowing two hits outside of the pair which scored the lone run.
Since Eric Hosmer went out with a hand injury, Josh Willingham was acquired, and the Royals went on a huge winning streak, there has been question about whether or not there is a spot for Hosmer in the lineup. Recent performances by the Royals’ offense have yielded a definitive answer: absolutely. At the very least, Hosmer’s return, along with Butler’s resurgence and Willingham’s mere presence, probably forces out Raul Ibanez, which is an * excellent * thing.
Tonight, the Royals were dominated by Phil Hughes, which feels like it happens at all times nowadays. He has only walked 15 batters all year, and, when facing the team with the lowest walk rate in the league, you can probably guess the result. Though Hughes was constantly throwing strikes, no Royal ever turned on one, and they only had 3 baserunners the entire game. It was Hughes’ fourth complete game of his career…
…or so I thought as I had put digital pen to paper in the seventh inning. But it was not to be, and I began to believe.
Ibanez, who I had belittled two paragraphs ago, blooped the type of hit entirely reliant on luck, and that was all the Royals needed to spark to life. He was immediately replaced by Lorenzo Cain, thereby upgrading the DH spot in hitting, baserunning, and fielding (if the DH fielded). Cain stole second, and then Mike Moustakas did what he usually does—pull the ball and ground to deep right—but it wasn’t hit quite hard enough for Brian Dozier to record the out. With runners at the corners, Jarrod Dyson bunted, and the Twins threw to home, but not in time for Cain to score the tying run. Nori Aoki did Aoki things, by slapping a ball to the opposite field, which scored Moustakas and giving the Royals their go-ahead run.
But that wasn't it. Alex Gordon walked. Billy Butler muscled a hit into shallow right field scoring two. Salvador Perez, behind chants from the crowd of 'Salvy, Salvy' smashed a triple in the left-center gap, clearing the bases. And that was all the Royals needed. In a cruel decision, Ned Yost brought in Greg Holland in a non-save situation to punish the Twins for doing so well for so long. After allowing a weak bloop hit, Holland butchered the next three Twins, inducing numerous flailing swings for a trio of strikeouts. Royals win 6-1, improving to 74-58 and advancing to a 2.5 game lead in the American League Central.
Billy Beane says in Moneyball that it's hard not to romanticize baseball. Under the flurry of games, day in and day out, we seek to create our own stories, perspectives, and memories from moments that have no particular significance. Today was only one baseball game out of 162. I, however, will always remember it as the game where I realized we are in the midst of something special. Last night was great, sure, but it was Alex Gordon displaying a singular moment of brilliance in a career filled with highlights. This game was different. It was a loss on paper and looked to be a loss as the game went on as the Royals' limp bats floundered while I waited for the spot starter, whose career ERA is over 6, to implode. Against all odds, the Royals forcefully imposed their will on the other team.
We've got something here. Let's enjoy it.