In the first of a four-game tilt pairing last year's American League Division Series opponents - the Kansas City Royals and the Houston Astros - Chris Young and Collin McHugh set off on the unenviable task of trying to stifle oppositions who do not concede defeat often. Though the methodology differs for each offense, each pitcher was sure to be challenged.
Their tasks may have been similarly herculean. The results were not.
A fact of life with Chris Young for Ned Yost and the Royals is that they must take the good and take the bad. More often than not, Young has gotten by with his bedeviling two-pitch repertoire, leaving the world scratching their heads only to shrug off the results as inexplicable for lack of apt comparisons. On those other occasions, however, Young's propensity for allowing fly balls can get him into trouble.
In his brief history pitching in Minute Maid Park, the results were ugly. In three games at Minute Maid Park, 10 of the 13 hits he had allowed had gone for extra bases, including eight home runs - two shy of how many he's allowed at Kauffman Stadium in 14 more games. Unfortunately for the Royals, tonight was one of the instances in which he didn't seem to be fooling opposing hitters. His results in the Juice Box didn't get any prettier tonight.
The cause of his woes tonight was his fastball, which found large chunks of the plate. The Astros feasted on his imprecision, getting to the 6'10" righty for nine hits, four of which went for extra bases. Before the Royals went to the plate in the second, they already faced a three-run deficit thanks to a Carlos Correa RBI-double and a demoralizing dong hanging of the two-run variety from Colby Rasmus. Young managed to stop the bleeding for a few innings, but when the fifth rolled around, the Astros drove in another three runs through the course of a hit parade that as some points seemed like it might never end.
The pair of three-run frames meant six runs were on the board for the Astros. In a general sense, six runs is a lot of runs. It seems like a lot more when the Royals' offense is unable to get anything going against the opposing starting pitcher.
The Royals didn't get a runner into scoring position until the fourth inning, when Alex Gordon hit a two-out double, advancing Eric Hosmer to third. After a Salvador Perez pop out to shallow center left Gordon and Hosmer stranded, the Royals put two aboard in the next inning behind a one-out Reymond Fuentes walk and an Alcides Escobar single up the middle. Unfortunately for the Royals, the shot to cut into the six-run lead was erased when Mike Moustakas grounded into a 3-6-1 double play.
In the top of the seventh, the Royals posed their biggest threat of the night to the Astros in their home opener, loading the bases with one out. Once again, the Royals left those runners on the bases, as Moustakas popped out to Carlos Correa ranging onto the grass in shallow center and Lorenzo Cain flied out harmlessly to right to end the threat.
Where Young struggled mightily, the Royals seemed to have no idea what was coming when McHugh released the ball from his finger tips. He struck out four and walked one while allowing eight hits in his seven innings of work. Of those eight hits, only one went for more than a single. McHugh kicked off each of his seven frames of work by retiring the lead-off hitter. He only worked one clean frame - the first - but the Royals seemed allergic to reaching safely when coming to the plate with runners on base.
Chien-Ming Wang entered in relief of Chris Young, getting the Royals out of an inherited jam in the top of the fifth before creating one of his own in the sixth, when the Astros pushed their seventh run of the night across the plate. Wang was otherwise solid, completing 2.1 innings with three punchouts and no walks while allowing four hits and that solitary run.
When McHugh finally came out of the game for the Astros after throwing his 102nd pitch to end the top half of the seventh, the Royals wasted little time in trying to claw their way back into the game. Eric Hosmer led off the eighth with a single off southpaw fireman Tony Sipp. Kendrys Morales then smoked a dong to deep right. Sadly the dong was a rally killer, and the baton was handed off to Danny Duffy.
After cutting into the Astros' lead, Jose Altuve worked a one-out walk off Duffy. For the second time in the game, a liner screamed into the corner in right field and Reymond Fuentes dived to catch the ball only to have it get past him for extra bases. Springer tripled in Altuve to run the score to 8 - 2, Houston.
Fuentes' second gaffe of the night sullied what was otherwise a good outing from the temporary right fielder, who singled twice, walked once, and gunned down George Springer when he tried to go first-to-third on a Carlos Correa single in the bottom of the sixth. The gaffes weren't game changing with the Royals trailing by more runs than they would score the entire night anyway, but they didn't look great either.
Alcides Escobar singled with one out in the ninth, but for the second time in a dreary night, Mike Moustakas grounded into a double play to end the inning, and in this case, the game.
The loss puts the Royals' record at 4 - 2, putting them half a game behind the *shudder* first-place Chicago White Sox. Kansas City will try to regroup tomorrow as Kris Medlen takes to the hill for the first time this season. His opponent will be Mike Fiers. Game time will be 7:10 CDT.