It's just that kind of season. Royals Devil Magic abounds.
In the pregame, which I wrote after last night's awful loss, I was admittedly bitter, and I did not think the Royals had much of a chance against Chris Sale. Who has been Randy Johnson since he became a starter in 2012. Here's what I wrote:
ERA is a flawed stat, sure, but get this: Since the 1994 MLB strike, there have been 768 qualifying individual pitching seasons for starters in the AL. By ERA, the worst of which was Jose Lima in 2005 who somehow carried a 6.99 ERA through 32 starts, and if that doesn't explain the Royals' 2005 season in a nutshell, nothing will.
In those 768 seasons, only one ended with an ERA below 2, and that was Pedro Martinez in 2000, who put together a season with a 1.74 ERA. Absolutely unreal.
Chris Sale, the Chicago White Sox starter, currently sports an ERA of 1.99. The Royals are averaging under three runs per game for their last 24 contests. The Royals have scored 1 run off of Sale in 15 innings this year.
Do you think good things will happen? Yeah, me neither.
The Royals trot this lineup out tonight:
Tonight, I was dead wrong. Royals win 6-2. It's just that kind of season. But why? Why did this happen?
I think the answer is pretty clear: Chris Sale is terrified of dogs.
This game was host to Bark at the Park, an evening wherein the Kauffman Stadium faithful were invited to bring dogs to the ballpark because of their inherent capability for understanding baseball and discussing lineups at length with Ned Yost. There were many dogs at the park, though in a slight oversight there seems to be no official count of dogs in attendance. Most likely the stadium crew just thought there were visiting NFL fans from the increased amount of flailing limbs, bodily fluid, and loud barking at random events with little to no provocation.
Regardless, Sale was scared out of his mind. His dome was shattered. His brain was wrinkled.
There was no score until the third inning either way until Adam Eaton hit a sacrifice fly to score Jordan Danks. This would be the only run that Yordano Ventura allowed in a brilliant performance of 7 innings, 7 strikeouts, and 3 walks. It was his 21st quality start, if you believe in the stat, a rookie record for the Royals. Ventura has been everything we could have possibly (and realistically) wanted this year and is a big reason why the Royals are a contender.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Royals worked their (devil) magic, but scoring in a very un-Royal way. After Nori Aoki and Alcides Escobar singles, Lorenzo Cain broke from the singles train script and belted a hanging breaking ball to left field for a 3-run home run. There are times when Cain's swing is brutally effective, and this was one of those times. The inning wasn't done, as Josh Willingham walked and Salvador Perez singled for the fourth run of the inning.
This game was full of weird things. For a quick recap:
- Lorenzo Cain homered for the first time since June
- Wade Davis gave up a run
- Chris Sale's fear of dogs affected his performance
- Billy Butler started the game
- Greg Holland appeared in the game
- Alcides Escobar hit a home run off of Chris Sale
Yes, that's correct, Escobat hit a solo shot in the fourth inning to make it 5-1 Royals, who never looked back. Davis and Holland appeared in the game to protect the lead and likely give them a boost in confidence because domes. And there's one more thing to add to the list:
- Nori Aoki had more hits, and was on base 13 out of 14 appearances this series
Aoki, who began the season as a disappointment, has been much better for a surprisingly long time, posting a .380 OBP since July 22. But still, getting on base 13 out of 14 times? Unreal. Aoki cannot be stopped.
The Royals have 10 full games to play and one suspended game. They are 83-68. This weekend's series against the Tigers is the biggest series since 1985. That is not an exaggeration. A sweep against Detroit puts the Royals in first place with only one week to go. A sweep by Detroit puts the Royals in a position to scramble for a Wild Card spot, firmly out of picture of the AL Central. And, as of this writing, Detroit is losing to the Twins. It's just that kind of season.
(EDIT: Detroit has just lost to Minnesota. Royals are now half a game back in the AL Central race.)
I'd be ok with Bark at the Park forever though. Or at least against Chris Sale.