In the longest regulation game in Royals history without a delay, Kansas City saw Ned Yost break from his script, finger both Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis early, and--despite having made what nearly everyone would consider the right move in each situation--had Herrera and Davis blow the game for the Royals.
While they were hardly the only runs Royals pitchers allowed, Kelvin Herrera was brought in to put out a fire in the sixth inning.
Now, everyone knows that the sixth inning is Aaron Crow's, but with the Tigers having just been beaten by the Twins, the pressure to gain ground seemed palpable. Brandon Finnegan had gotten the first two outs in the sixth inning but had also given up an infield single to Avisail Garcia. With a righty in the form of Dayan Viciedo coming up to bat, Yost elected to go to the pen and bring in Kelvin Herrera. While no one really knows if Finnegan can or cannot consistently get right-handed hitters out, it is fair to say it's probably safer to go with the proven commodity in Kelvin Herrera. After all, he had the second-longest scoreless streak heading into tonight, trailing only teammate Wade Davis. After walking Viciedo, he induced a Carlos Sanchez grounder to short to end the inning.
Herrera came back out in the seventh, having thrown just seven pitches in the sixth. The Royals were clinging to a 5 - 4 lead. He gave up two piddly singles to start the inning--one to Josh Phegley, the other to the pesky Adam Eaton--but induced a fielder's choice to erase Eaton at second.
With one down and the tying run perched at third, Yost decided to bring Wade Davis in. Again, the fault here can't really be laid at the feet of Ned Yost. Facing the deadly Jose Abreu, Davis labored to a full count before issuing a free pass. Conor Gillaspie followed with his own full count before rifling a complete pitcher's pitch for a triple to right-center field, clearing the loaded bases, plating the fifth, sixth, and seventh Chicago runs.
It was just shitty luck. Davis got out of the inning without giving up any more runs, thanks in large part to a spectacular leaping grab on the infield grass from Alcides Escobar, holding Gillaspie at third and getting Avisail Garcia at first before striking out Andy Wilkins.
It's easy to focus on the lead coughed up in the top of the seventh, but there were plenty of other factors in play here.
The Royals used nine pitchers tonight. In a nine inning game. Once again, Liam Hendriks was little more than a body. The first run he allowed should have never happened--while fielding a should-have-been outfield assist from Alex Gordon, Omar Infante tried to apply the sweeping tag without actually catching the ball in his glove on a play in which Adam Eaton would have been out with ease--but Hendriks failed to record an out in the fourth and left Jason Frasor with runners on second and third. But I Don't Know What To Do With Those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs got two quick outs, but each was a fly ball to center, and the Pale Hoes ended up plating a run on each fly ball.
Those runs put the Pale Hoes up 4 - 3. Scott Downs came in, and Dayan Viciedo decided that he was just going to end the inning by getting caught stealing.
The Royals tacked on a run apiece in both the fifth and sixth innings with Infante sacrificing to drive in Gordon and Norichika Aoki singling in Alcides Escobar. Unfortunately, the lions of the Royals' pen couldn't hold the lead. If ever there were an inopportune time for Herrera and Davis's streaks to end, it was tonight. The Royals had a chance to close the division gap, but couldn't muster the offense in their final three rounds at the plate.
The loss means that the offensive work of Escobar, Gordon, Hosmer, Infante, and especially Aoki was squandered. Each of the first four reached base twice and all but Hosmer were heavily involved in the scoring. Aoki had four hits and is now eight for his last nine. Escobar, Gordon, and Aoki each stole a base, too.
But in a night where Ned Yost broke from his stringent bullpen use and pulled out all the stops, doing his best Terry Francona impersonation, the best relievers (not named Greg Holland, at least) were in with the game on the line to take care of other people's messes and they couldn't do it.
Shit happens. Hopefully this loss doesn't dissuade Yost from breaking from routine the next time this situation presents itself.