For the first time since Johnny Cueto's complete-game shutout in his home debut at Kauffman Stadium on August 10, the Royals did not allow their opponents to score a run.
While his results owed largely to a ride on the back of the BABIP fairy, Kris Medlen did what no Royals' starting pitcher had done since August 27 when Yordano Ventura left a start after six scoreless innings with a pitch count of 98 in a dazzling 11-strikeout performance.
Yes, apparently a Royals' pitcher can leave a ballgame without allowing a run.
Of course, the tale of Medlen's outing was far different from Ventura's last scoreless outing. Buoyed by sterling defensive performances from pretty much the entire infield, Medlen allowed five hits and walked one while striking out zero Clevelanders. He worked quickly, living low enough in the zone to have just four of his 19 outs leave the purview of his infielders.
Medlen did leave the game with two runners aboard and just one out recorded in the seventh, but Ryan Madson--one of the Royals' unsung heroes this year--entered and struck out Abraham Almonte and Giovanni Urshela on eight pitches, bailing out Medlen and keeping the home team off the board for another inning.
For their part, the Royals' offense had very little luck against Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin. The right-hander, donning a racist mascot atop his dome, struck out six Royals, while allowing just four to reach base safely.
Unfortunately for Tomlin, one of those four hits (he walked none) was a two-out double from Mike Moustakas. This double was noteworthy for two reasons.
- It came one pitch after Moustakas hit a sky-high pop-up that traveled no farther than 15 feet from home plate. Fortunately for the Royals' third baseman, Yan Gomes could not find the ball, and Moustakas was given a second life at the plate when the ball dropped to the grass in foul territory untouched.
- The double itself was also well hit, driven off the wall, but center fielder Abraham Almonte also lost the ball in the lights and still came just a few feet from making the play anyway. Were it not for two separate occasions in which hit balls could have easily been converted into outs but for the balls getting lost in the lights or sky, Moustakas would have been out and Tomlin would have escaped the inning unscathed.
After swinging at an 0-1 wild pitch in the dirt for strike two [because of course he would], Salvador Perez lined a two-out single to center, driving in the first run of the ballgame. Why Tomlin thought it necessary to actually throw a strike to Perez in this situation--or ever, really--is anyone's guess. Still, it happened, and the Royals had the lead.
Of course, one of the pair of runs Tomlin allowed had no chance of being an out. In the top of the fifth, Alex Rios hung his fourth dong of the season and his second in the last five days, keeping it just inside the foul pole down the line in left.
Needing 110 pitches to accomplish the feat, Tomlin went the distance against Kansas City.
After a quick inning from Wade Davis in which he worked around a two-out full count walk to Michael Brantley, Greg Holland entered the game and--as Holland has done so often in 2015--struggled to shut the door as his fastball velocity hovered around the concerning 90-MPH mark.
Kicking off the frame, Holland walked Lonnie Chisenhall (who made several nice catches in right robbing Kansas City hitters of possible extra base hits on the warning track) on five pitches. Yan Gomes then rocketed a grounder to short that Escobar could not get a glove on, but runners at first and second with no outs.
Because you can't take the Royal out of a baseball player, Mike Aviles squared to bunt and popped it up to the third-base side of the mound, which Holland got to with plenty of time to catch the ball. Rather than watch the ball into his glove, he turned to make a throw mid-catch and lost a handle on the ball. He gathered the ball from the grass quickly and got the lead runner at third, but when Moustakas turned to get the double play at second base, no Royal defender was anywhere in the vicinity as the middle infield had needed to shift to the corners when the bunt was laid down.
With just one out and two runners aboard, Holland got Almonte to pop foul to Moustakas for the second out, but on a 1-2 count to Giovanny Urshela, he spiked a slider in the dirt that scurried through Perez's legs* and rolled slowly in the grass behind him, allowing both base-runners to advance into scoring position with just a two-run lead.
*Rhetorical question time: Has it been said here lately that Perez is actually quite poor at preventing wild pitches from getting past him? Since 2012, he has allowed the second-most in baseball behind just Russell Martin.
Then as though playing possum the entire time, complete with a visit from the trainer when his four-seam velocity sat in the 89-90 range, Holland hurled a 93-MPH fastball past the unwitting Urshela, maintaining the scoreless status quo for Royals' pitchers on the evening.
This marked just the third win for the Royals in their last 11 games and was a needed palate cleanser after two consecutive particularly dismal games.
In the pursuit of home-field advantage, the Jays lost ground with a loss to the lowly Braves, running the Royals' lead back to three games. At time of printing, the Twins are down 4 - 1 to Detroit heading to the top of the seventh at Target Field. A Minnesota loss would increase the Royals lead in the division to ten games with 18 to go.