For at least one night in Grass Creek, the most impressive player vying for his squad's supremacy in the volatile battleground was an unlikely man.
After allowing a two-out homer to deep center from the bat of Robinson Cano in the bottom of the first, Joe Blanton did not allow a single Seattle player to reach base until Austin Jackson led off the seventh inning with a double to the corner in left. Over the course of those sixteen straight Mariners retired, Blanton looked positively dominant. Much of this dominance likely owed to the lowly offense the spot starter was facing, but for one night Blanton did exactly what the Royals needed him to do. That this was something the Royals' rotation has consistently failed to do recently was all the more surprising.
That Blanton never suited up for the Mariners and has barely played for the Royals was no matter in this heated rivalry.
The walk-averse Blanton attacked Seattle batsmen with aggression befitting someone with a much more intimidating repertoire. When Austin Jackson laced an 0-1 sinker to left, it was just Blanton's 80th pitch of the night. With the Royals' bullpen fully rested after yesterday's drubbing at the hands of the Red Sox that saw just Chris Young, Jason Frasor, and Aaron Brooks throw, Jackson was the last batter Blanton would face in a 4 - 1 game. But in his second spot start in the past week, Blanton struck out seven Mariners while walking none.
The fact that the Royals were facing perennial Cy-Young-candidate Felix Hernandez somehow did not matter tonight. While Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon struggled against Seattle's ace, the rest of the offense had little problem formulating rallies against him. Facing an early 0 - 1 deficit after Cano's first-inning dong, Salvador Perez, Alex Rios, and Omar Infante joined forces to answer with two runs in the top of the second, seizing the lead and undoubtedly the hearts of many a resident of Grass Creek, who watched on in the safety of their own homes while fretting about their kin on the other side of the divide and worrying more about raiding parties that have swelled over the past few seasons.
Alcides Escobar kicked off the third with a single and promptly got pushed across the plate with a scorched double from the bat of Mike Moustakas. The double tore a hole in the lining of the outfield wall roughly a foot below the top of the wall, battle-scarring Safeco Field, ensuring that the remnants of WAR spilled over from the Wyoming burg. Nelson Cruz misplayed the ball, and Escobar scored from first easily. Hernandez avoided another Escobar/Moustakas-fueled scoring threat in the fifth, inducing a double play from the Mariner-turncoat Kendrys Morales.
The Royals added another run of insurance in the seventh as Jarrod Dyson singled with two outs and immediately stole second base before getting driven in on a full-count single from Alcides Escobar. That single ended Felix Hernandez's night and ran the Royals lead to 4 - 1, with the game soon to be turned over to the Royals' trio of flame-throwing lock-down relievers.
Presumably, the latest man to cross the battlefield and don the uniform of the other team in this never-ending fracas had more to do with the Royals' success this eve than one might deduce from looking at the box score. Morales may have only drawn a walk from Felix Hernandez in between an inning-ending strikeout and an inning-ending double play against his former teammate, but it was clear that the Royals had the book on Hernandez tonight. This was no doubt the result of information bestowed upon them by Hernandez's two-time comrade-in-arms.
Whether this insider information playing such an integral part Kansas City's victory will be held against the Royals amongst the fence-sitters in Grass Creek is yet to be seen, but to qualify this win as anything less than momentous would be a disservice to this impressive Royals squad.