September was terrible, and we should all forget it. But tonight, a new month dawned. That month yielded a 6-4 victory against the Chicago White Sox.
Kris Medlen took the mound for the Royals tonight, in defense of his playoff spot. He began the game excellently, gather the first two outs with less than five pitches. However, he lost his control, and gave up two singles and a walk. Still, Medlen escaped the first inning with no runs allowed, a better result than many pitchers in the month of September.
Fortunately, it's not September--it is October. It is always October.
The Royals immediately took to their October form. Alcides Escobar bunted to lead off the game. It was a beautiful bunt, and the White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers airmailed the throw to first base. Escobar swiftly jaunted to second base. After outs by Ben Zobrist and Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales walked. Mike Moustakas knocked an opposite-field ground rule double to knock in Escobar for an early 1-0 lead.
This was an odd development, as soft-tossing John Danks generally has had the Royals' number recently. But not today. The third inning was extremely similar to the first. Hosmer shot a triple down the right field line. Morales again walked, and Moose again got a hit to score Hosmer to make it 2-0 Royals. But Kansas City wasn't done--Alex Gordon singled, and Jonny Gomes poked his first single, his first hit since the stone age. 4-0, Royals.
Once more with feeling said the Royals, as they attacked Danks one final time. Morales led off with a walk, because of course. Salvador Perez doubled and Gordon singled. 5-2 Royals. Gomes came through again with a sac fly, making it 6-2 Royals.
Medlen, for his part, got good results despite spotty stuff. He allowed those two runs in the third inning, driven in by Trayce Thompson on a single and Alexei Ramirez on a throwing error by Escobar. Medlen looked equal parts terrible and amazing. When executing correctly, Medlen's pitches jump and dance with deft movement, making it easy to see why he had so much success. But Medlen has yet to exhibit this skill regularly this year. At times, his command evaporates, and his pitches hang or skid harmlessly around the strike zone. He lasted six innings, yielding only two runs. He struck out four and walked three.
After Medlen's exit in the seventh inning, Luke Hochevar walked to the plate and proceeded to be terrible despite good stuff. This is the refrain to Hochevar's career. Unfortunately, it seems that Hochevar's career as an excellent reliever was destroyed with Tommy John surgery. Though healthy, Hochevar's average fastball has fallen by 1.2 MPH from his 2013 campaign. His ERA and FIP are both around 4. Hochevar coughed up two runs to the White Sox, making it 6-4 Royals.
Fortunately, Danny Duffy took over from Hochevar and defused the situation. Duffy the reliever is a terrifying thing--he effortlessly tosses upper-90s fastballs and compliments it with a biting curveball. Still, Duffy is not immune to the forces of the BABIP fairy. With one out achieved in the eighth inning, Ramirez bounced a seeing-eye single before Avisail Garcia walked on a full count. With the winning run stepping to the plate, Ned Yost went to Kelvin Herrera to bail Duffy out a night after Herrera gave up the game-tying run last night to the White Sox.
Herrera induced a ground ball that functioned as a sac bunt, moving the tying run to second base. Against pinch-hitter J. B. Shuck, Herrera worked a 1-2 count before unleashing a pitch beneath Drew Butera's legs. The pitch skidded off his glove, going halfway to the backstop. Fortunately, Butera was able to throw to home place as Herrera was covering, and then this happened:
Style points, Herrera. Style. Ramirez was out, and the call was upheld by umpire review. Ryan Madson came on in the bottom of the ninth to close the game with an easy 1-2-3 inning.
Though the Royals may have had a terrible September, they still have a trio of games to take back some momentum. They are even with the Blue Jays with the best record in the American League, but since the Blue Jays own the tiebreaker they are effectively one game behind. Home field advantage for the playoffs is still an achievable goal.
October baseball is the best.