Last year, the Kansas City Royals defeated the Houston Astros in the American League Divisional Series with determination, excellent defense, and a devastating bullpen, quickly capitalizing on mistakes and refusing to back down. In what must be a four-game series full of deja vu for the Astros, the Royals emerged victoriously, capping off their excellent series with a 6-2 victory tonight.
Astros starter Doug Fister has never been one to throw fire; his upper-80s fastball touched the low 90s every once in a while, and it functioned well with his cutter and changeup. Over the last two years, though, Fister has pitched with the fastball velocity of that one big scary guy in your rec league. His average fastball has hovered around 85 MPH, and he hasn't thrown any pitches at 90 MPH even once.
Fister failed to fool the frisky Royals from the very beginning. After striking out Alcides Escobar, a feat not remotely inspiring, Fister served up a breaking ball that didn't break enough, and Mike Moustakas crushed it for his third home run of the season. Lorenzo Cain also jumped on a pitch for a single, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Cain tried to score on an Eric Hosmer single, the key word being 'tried,' as he made a poor life decision to do so on a ricochet throw that didn't bounce quite far enough.
For a while, that was all that happened. Fister continued not fooling the Royals, but excellent defensive placement by the Astros limited the damage, as line drive after line drive found gloves.
That changed in the top of the sixth inning. With a man on base, Lorenzo Cain hit a fly ball to George Springer in right field. As is often the case with these kinds of games, it was a defensive gaffe that gave the Royals a chance, and a chance they took. Springer lost the ball in the lights, and there were suddenly two on for Hosmer.The Wizard of Hos slashed a two-run double to left field to make it 3-0. Additional doubles by Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon, followed by a single by Salvador Perez, bumped the lead to 6-0, Kansas City.
Continuing the eventful sixth, two things happened in the bottom of the inning--Kennedy lost his no-hit bid, yes, but perhaps the first tangible evidence arose of why General Manager Dayton Moore and Co. decided to shell out $70 million for the ginger-bearded pitcher. Carlos Gomez knocked a single, and then Marwin Gonzalez shot a short fly ball to shallow center field. Escobar sprinted back into center field and, in one smooth motion, notched a deviously difficult over-the-shoulder sliding grab, jumped to his feet, and fired the ball over to Hosmer to double Gomez off at first:
This is amazing, but not terribly surprising. Such is the life of playing the Royals.
The next inning, Jose Altuve smashed an opposite-field home run to end Kennedy's shutout bid. So it goes. No matter your baseball affiliation, it's hard not to like the diminutive Venezuelan. There aren't many 5' 5" second baseman with excellent defense, a .300 career average, and decent power in baseball.
Kennedy's night ended after the seventh inning. His final tally: seven innings pitched, seven strikeouts, two hits, two walks, and one earned run. In two starts so far: 13.2 innings pitched, 14 strikeouts, seven hits, three walks, and one earned run. There are probably at least 64 more starts to go in the Kennedy Era, but the first two have been delightfully nasty.
Things meandered about until the ninth inning, when Ned Yost sent left-handed Danny Duffy out for a second inning against a string of dangerous right-handers. Evan Gattis singled, Jose Altuve followed suit with a double, and then Carlos Correa scored Gattis with a single after Springer struck out. With the save situation on, Yost replaced Duffy with Wade Davis against Colby Rasmus, dead-set on giving the Astros every platoon advantage possible. Still, Davis is Davis, and he induced a game-ending double play.
Tomorrow, the Royals venture to Oakland to play the Athletics on Jackie Robinson day.