In an extra inning affair that at times felt unlikely to ever end, the Royals' offense sputtered until the 13th inning, leaving them to rely upon a strong outing from Edinson Volquez, a minor miracle in the ninth, and seven innings of shutdown pitching from the bullpen to preserve the chance for victory.
For the first eight innings, the Royals struggled to mount much of an offensive attack. Aside from a first inning in which Lorenzo Cain (hit-by-pitch) and Eric Hosmer (single) reached with two outs, the Royals did not put more than a single runner aboard in any inning until the eighth.
Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the second, third, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, inducing double plays to accomplish the feat in the second and sixth frames. He relied heavily upon the ground ball, as he struck out just three Kansas City batters, and recorded three outs by way of the fly ball. The Cuban rookie seemed to have the Royals' offense off balance all night, as they chopped grounders around the infield to expectant Cincinnati gloves.
Former Red Edinson Volquez did not coast through the Reds' lineup with as much ease as Iglesias did, but the Reds still struggled to score runs against tonight's starter. Volquez labored through long at-bats with nearly every Red he faced. It took him 112 pitches to finish six innings despite allowing just seven runners to reach safely. Of those, only Eugenio Suárez scored, crossing the plate on a 344-foot shot to the first couple rows down the line in left field.
Volquez rang up seven Reds and walked just three--one intentionally--but the first inning dong-hanging allowed meant that Volquez exited the game trailing 1 - 0.
Ryan Madson, himself a former Red, took over for Volquez and sent them down in order in the seventh, needing just 11 pitches to get the job done.
Despite only reaching the 90-pitch mark, Bryan Price pinch-hit for Iglesias with one out and no one aboard in the seventh, meaning that the Reds would turn to Jared Hoover to hold the Royals scoreless in the eighth. After an Alex Rios strikeout, Jarrod Dyson blooped a single into shallow left.
With the pitcher-spot coming up in the order, RBI-man Kendrys Morales stepped to the plate in a pinch-hit appearance. Hoover, knowing that the Cubanoid is a man to be avoided, eventually walked him. The 'eventually' is operative here because Jarrod Dyson had already opened up a base by the time the count had gotten deep on Morales.
Unfortunately, Alcides Escobar was the next up. As quickly as the Royals were able to say they had put two runners aboard, Escobar grounded to the hole on the left side of the infield, and the Royals had ignominiously recorded their third inning-ending double play of the night.
With Aroldis Chapman waiting in the wings for the Reds, Ned Yost turned to Chris Young to pitch in the bottom of the eighth. In the bandbox that is Great American Ball Park, Young faced Brandon Phillips, Eugenio Suárez, and Joey Votto. After two quick outs, Joey Votto worked a full-count walk, and Chris Young set to work against Home Run Derby King Todd Frazier.
In a bold temptation of fate, Yost's pitcher-versus-ballpark dice roll did not crap out.
Young struck out Frazier to end the inning, and the best part of the Royals lineup came to bat against one of the best closers in the game.
After digging himself a 2-1 hole against Ben Zobrist, Aroldis Chapman--who had converted a MLB-record 56 consecutive saves at home--left one up in the middle of the zone.
Zobrist smacked it into the stands in left.
The streak and Reds' lead were gone in an instant.
Lorenzo Cain sent the very next pitch back up the middle for a single, putting the go-ahead run on board with no outs. Aroldis Chapman got Eric Hosmer swinging on a wicked 1-2 slider. Lorenzo Cain stole second and third base successively with Salvador Pérez batting, but Pérez hit a grounder up the middle that cast Cain adrift in no man's land between third and home.
Caught in a run down, Cain initially scored with the home plate umpire ruling Cain safe believing Frazier missed the tag. Replay showed that Frazier barely scratched Cain's jersey with the tag, and Cain was called out.
Salvador Pérez reached second as Cain had prolonged the rundown as long as possible, and Mike Moustakas came up to face the left-handed flame thrower. Moustakas chopped a routine grounder up the middle for the third out, and the Reds and Royals headed to the bottom of the ninth tied at one run apiece.
As the Royals had only used Ryan Madson and Chris Young from their stable of bullpen arms, the Royals seemed well-equipped to pull out the victory tonight once the game had been tied.
Wade Davis did as Wade Davis does, putting two recent rougher outings in the rearview with a filthy frame featuring strikeouts of Marlon Byrd and Brayan Peña.
The Reds turned to Burke Badenhop in the tenth, and he sent down Rios and Dyson quickly before allowing a lined single to right from pinch-hitter Paulo Orlando. On a 2-1 count, Brayan Peña caught a ball low and away to Alcides Escobar and nabbed Orlando at second after the speedy Brazilian attempted to take the base on a poorly executed delayed steal.
After a quick one-pitch out from Jason Bourgeois, Kelvin Herrera walked the fastest player in Major League Baseball on four straight pitches. With Billy Hamilton at first, Herrera and Brandon Phillips became embroiled in a seven-pitch at-bat in which Phillips took only one pitch--the first one, a called strike. Phillips lined out to right field on the seventh strike of the at-bat.
With two outs, Hamilton stole second safely thanks in part to a poor throw from Pérez to Escobar. Pérez's throw nearly got airmailed to center field, but Escobar got a glove on it, and it caromed toward Zobrist, who was there to save the day. Working the count full to Suárez, Herrera smoked a 98-MPH fastball through the outer third of the plate, and the first-inning hero watched the ball go by for a called third strike.
Leading off the tenth against appropriately nicknamed reliever Jumbo Diaz, Alcides Escobar ripped a 3-2 fastball to the gap in right-center. Billy Hamilton laid out fully to stop the ball on a hop, preventing it from going to the fence.
Seeing that Hamilton extended completely in the dive, Escobar tried his luck attempting to stretch the single to a double. Hamilton delivered a throw on the money to shortstop Eugenio Suárez. Escobar, who didn't kick it up a gear until he was nearly to first base, was called out on the play.
Judging by the replay here, it is entirely possible that Suárez missed the tag, as it appears as though he was going for the back leg on a close play, but no replay angle on-air showed that Escobar reached second safely with anything resembling clarity. Had Escobar shot out of the box at full speed or held up at first, the Royals likely would have been in a situation in which they had not made their third out in three innings on the basepaths.
According to the Fox Sports Kansas City broadcast, an angle on the scoreboard showed the tag missed the front leg, which Ned Yost clearly saw as he emerged from the dugout incensed, getting tossed while arguing the apparent nonsense of such a non-reversal from the replay booth in New York. That angle being clearer is hearsay, of course, but instant replay does not seem to have been going along as swimmingly this year as it did last year.
Franklin Morales mowed down the heart of the Reds order with relative ease, and the Royals came up again in the top of the 12th in a 1 - 1 game that seemed destined to never end.
Manny Parra struck out Eric Hosmer to start the inning, but Salvador Pérez singled to left with one down. Mike Moustakas ripped a grounder to Brandon Phillips, but the grounder caused Phillips to dive to the dirt toward the foul line, eliminating the opportunity to turn two. With the stone-footed Pérez at second, the positively abysmal Alex Rios sent a routine fly ball to left, ending the scoring threat then and there.
With Kris Medlen on the mound, Brayan Peña recorded the first Cincinnati hit since the sixth inning, a one-out liner to center. Luckily that was the last hit Medlen allowed in the frame. Rios made a nice sliding grab on a sinking liner, and Medlen got pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart looking on a wicked 78-MPH curve that froze the back-up catcher.
The game marched on to the 13th.
Facing new reliever Ryan Mattheus, Jarrod Dyson ripped a full-count single through the right side of the infield.
As the Royals' bullpen was down to its final arms, Kris Medlen stepped into the batter's box. Medlen laid a perfect bunt down the first base and raced toward the bag.
Mattheus fielded the ball, and on what was going to be a surprisingly close play, Mattheus made an errant throw up the line into right field.
As it was Jarrod Dyson on the basepaths, that was a costly error. Dyson, who was already to second by the time the throw to first was made, came around to score standing up.
A wild pitch, Alcides Escobar single, and a defensive indifference later, Zobrist stood in the box with runners at second and third and no outs. Zobrist hit a high chopper to the space in between first and second. Both Votto and Phillips converged on the ball, but Zobrist raced up the line and beat Mattheus to the bag for an RBI- single that went all of about 100 feet from home plate.
That was all Bryan Price needed to see from Ryan Mattheus.
Dylan Axelrod came in with runners on first and third with no outs for Lorenzo Cain. Zobrist became the second Royal to advance to second on indifference in the inning, but Lorenzo Cain grounded to third for the first out of the inning.
With one out in the books, Axelrod intentionally walked Eric Hosmer to set up the double play, and the Royals' hopes for more runs rest in Salvador Pérez's hands. Pérez and Axelrod engaged in a nine-pitch at-bat that eventually ended in a strikeout swinging. After working the count full with the bases juiced, Moustakas offered at a pitch a few inches outside and flew out to left to end the threat with just two runs scored.
Intent upon using the entire Kansas City bullpen, Don Wakamatsu turned to Greg Holland to close out the game in the 13th. Phillips tried to check his swing on a borderline offering but clipped the pitch and grounded out softly to Greg Holland for the first out. Holland struck out Eugenio Suárez but followed the K with a full-count walk of Joey Votto, bringing the fearsome Todd Frazier to the plate as the tying run. After missing his spot badly on his first slider offered, Holland worked three straight sliders down a step apiece before getting Frazier to chase one in the dirt, bringing the nearly five-hour game to its merciful end.
The win brings the Royals 26 games over .500 for the first time since 1980--and that time they went 18-11.
The only reliever the Royals didn't use was Luke Hochevar, though no Royal reliever was called upon to go more than an inning, so the bulk of the pen should be available tomorrow if needed.
Offensively, each Royals' position player reached base at least once except for Alex Rios. Even pinch-hitters Kendrys Morales, Paulo Orlando, and pitcher Kris Medlen reached base, though Medlen reached on the error. Despite their base-running blunders, the Royals did steal four bases with Cain and Dyson jockeying back and forth for the team lead--Dyson stealing his 23rd, and Cain following with his 23rd and 24th on the season.
The Zobrist home run was his fourth in 17 games as a Royal. In Alex Gordon's absence, Zobrist has torn apart the opposition. Heading into action tonight, he was slashing .345/.456/.564 for Kansas City, and he went 2-for-6 tonight with the Royals' only two RBI and was responsible for tying up the ball game against Aroldis Chapman. The value of his addition cannot possibly be emphasized enough after a game like tonight's.