24 hours ago, the Royals blew past the Mariners to clinch their first-ever American League Central title. Ned Yost opted to give the bulk of the team's starters the night off for Friday's contest against the Cleveland Indians, which, understandably, irked the fanbase.
The Royals' B-team lineup that was thrown out onto the field was brutal all evening, but considering how sharp Carlos Carrasco was, it might not have mattered had Kansas City thrown out the nine best hitters in baseball history.
Carraso (14-11) fanned a whopping 15 Royals and flirted with a no-hitter, stifling Kansas City all evening. His offense clubbed three home runs to give him all the run support he needed, sending the Indians to a 6-0 victory. Carrasco did not allow a hit until Alex Rios' one-out single in the sixth inning. He did not allow any further hits after that, settling for a one-hit shutout. His 15 strikeouts totaled a career high. His game score was 98.
After struggling against Kansas City early in his career, Carrasco has turned into the Royals' kryptonite. He has made four starts against the Royals this season, winning all four and allowing just five runs in 24 innings. He has struck out 38 batters throughout that stretch. Considering how few strikeouts the Royals have when compared to the rest of the American League, that's no small feat.
Via Brandon H. on Twitter, the last pitcher to fan that many Royals was Roger Clemens, who struck out a stunning 18 hitters back on August 25, 1998. Here's the box score from that game; it's quite a treat.
And look, Carrasco is really good, but what did you expect from that lineup?
As for the Cleveland offense, the Indians used three home runs to plate all five of their runs. The bombs came from a trio of players who, entering Friday night, had combined for 13 home runs all season. Jose Ramirez hit a one-out big fly in the first inning. Abraham Almonte hit a two-run dinger in the second. And in the seventh, Roberto Perez smashed a two-run shot over the left-field wall to make the score 5-0.
Edinson Volquez (13-9) was shaky early, but he settled into a quality start. He actually surrendered just four hits, but when half of them leave the yard and your offense doesn't get a hit until you're out of the game, it doesn't really matter. He needed 101 pitches to complete six innings of work, walking two and striking out seven hitters. Volquez' ERA ballooned to 3.65, which is the highest it has been all season.
Franklin Morales was on the hill when the seventh inning started, but he allowed four baserunners while recording just one out. Danny Duffy cleaned up the mess to keep the game 5-0 before Miguel Almonte worked a perfect eighth frame and Scott Alexander pitched the ninth. Cleveland tacked on a run against Alexander when Francisco Lindor chopped an RBI groundout.
Entering the ninth inning, eight of the nine Royals had struck out at least once against Carrasco. The lone exception was Francisco Pena, but he made up for that by striking out in the last frame. Drew Butera and Christian Colon managed to walk, but Kansas City never had more than one runner on base at the same time. Nobody made it past second base. Ben Zobrist, Paulo Orlando, and Jonny Gomes, representing the second, fourth and fifth spots in the batting order, were a combined 0-for-10 with nine strikeouts.
The Toronto Blue Jays also managed to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, which means that the Royals' lead for homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs shrinks back to one game. Nine games remain for each team. With the loss, Kansas City fell to 89-64.
The offense appears due to break through tomorrow night (as long as the starting lineup is full of, you know, starters) against Josh Tomlin (6-2, 2.43), who the Royals beat last week in Cleveland. Kris Medlen (5-1, 3.51) threw 6.1 shutout frames to win that same contest, and he'll look to send Kansas City to its 90th victory of the season on Saturday. The game begins at 6:10 pm. Meanwhile in Canada, Chris Archer and David Price will clash in a battle of aces.
I know what you're trying to do, Ned. I really do. But please, don't punt any more games. And if you do, you'd better hope that like tonight, the opposing pitcher is going to have a historic night.