Tonight's match-up between the Racists and the Royals was the perfect representation of what those two teams do on the pitching and defense side of the game. For seven innings, Carlos Carrasco attacked Royals hitters, striking them out with all the elan one would expect of a pitcher with a K/9 north of 10. For six innings, Jeremy Guthrie induced contact and hoped that the defense would have his back. Alex Gordon did so quite specifically, robbing Jason Kipnis of an extra base hit for the first out of the night, on a great diving play that can be seen here.
Each offense managed a single run against the opposing starting pitcher.
The Royals pounced first, getting Mike Moustakas aboard with one down in the bottom of the third inning via a single lined to right. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, Lorenzo Cain grounded out to the right side, moving Moustakas over to third on the second out of the inning. Eric Hosmer followed with a single of his own and drove in the first run of the game.
As one could reasonably expect when he's in possession of a one-run lead, Jeremy Guthrie wasted little time in giving that lead back. Brandon Moss, who will probably name his next child Kauffman, deposited a fastball down the pipe into the visitor's bullpen in right field.
With the Royals' offense regressing to the mean like it needed to be done by the end of the week, the Royals and Jeremy Guthrie had a razor-thin margin of error. Shockingly, Guthrie made do with his pedestrian arsenal tonight, limiting the Racists to just that one run. Not shockingly, Carlos Carrasco rang up eight Royals while allowing just seven baserunners in his seven frames.
Kelvin Herrera came in and struck out the side in the seventh after allowing a lead-off single on a pitcher's pitch in the low-outside quadrant of the strike zone that Brandon Moss poked away from the shift.
In a tie game, Wade Davis pitched in the eighth, and events did not play out the way that the Royals have come to expect. First, Cool Stuff walked Michael Bourn. Then Jose Ramirez grounded to second. Omar Infante flipped the ball to Alcides Escobar for the out at second. Escobar turned, momentarily bobbled the transfer, but threw to first making for a very close play at the bag. Initially ruled safe at first, replays appeared to show Ramirez to be out by a fraction of a second (according to either broadcast booth) from multiple angles, but the replay team in New York somehow let the call on the field stand.
This would matter.
With one down, Jason Kipnis grounded to Omar Infante, who failed to field the ball cleanly and recovered in time to get the lead runner at second. After Jason Kipnis stole second with no throw from Salvador Perez, Carlos Santana worked a full-count walk, Davis's second of the inning. Michael Brantley fouled off three 1-2 offerings from Davis before stroking a single to center. That single plated the first run scored against Wade Davis this season and was the go-ahead run for Cleveland. Brandon Moss followed with a sharp grounder to Eric Hosmer near the infield grass behind first. Wade Davis didn't break to first on contact, and while Hosmer saved a run with the play, Davis's inning was not over. Seven merciful pitches later, Davis induced a Nick Swisher grounder to Hosmer, who took the play himself, and Davis was out of the eighth with just one run allowed, though it took 38 pitches to get there.
The Royals went quietly in the eighth, though it took half an hour getting there with Terry Francona's slavery to hitter-pitcher match-ups making for three pitchers to get the three outs of the inning.
Cleveland squandered a lead-off double against Luke Hochevar in the ninth, stranding Lonnie Chisenhall at second.
Cody Allen sent down Kendrys Morales on three pitches, inducing the second-worst swing of the night on an 0-1 curve spiked into the plate that Morales missed by a mile. Alex Gordon, who owned Cody Allen in their previous meetings, went down swinging for the second out of the ninth, and Alex Rios grounded out to third base to meekly put an end to the Royals' night.
The Royals struck out 12 times tonight. With two on and two outs in the fourth, Omar Infante went down waving at a 90-MPH change that was NOWHERE NEAR THE STRIKE ZONE. Its proximity to the strike zone could have been measured in feet. It was so far outside that Yan Gomes couldn't catch the ball, and Infante got to take off for first base. Had he made his way down the line with any sense of urgency whatsoever, he likely would have been safe, but that did not happen.
In the past week, these Royals have looked like the Royals of years past, only without the starting pitching. They've won just one of their last seven games, making it seem like 28-14 will surely become the new 18-11.