After zooming to an excellent 6-0 homestand, the Kansas City Royals could not be beat by any team. They had been truly excellent, and were dominating in every facet of the game.
The Royals lost this game 5-4 on a walkoff sacrifice fly by Mike Napoli. They were not beat by the Cleveland Indians, instead beating themselves with a flurry of horrific defensive gaffes.
The game started off without much fanfare. Yordano Ventura, as he so often has this year, struggled early in the game, filling the bases with multiple baserunners. However, the Indians were only able to scrape one run in the second and one additional run in the third despite putting seven baserunners on in those two innings. None of the Indians batsmen were able to grab extra base hits and, as we know from watching the Royals Singles Train, sometimes the train doesn't quite leave the station.
The Royals exhibited the exact opposite on offense. In the top of the third inning, Jarrod Dyson singled against hard-throwing Carlos Carrasco, making his first start since being placed on the disabled list earlier in the year. Drew Butera, of all people, proceeded to crush a pitch to left field, tying the game at 2 all and giving Kansas City a 999-0 lead in amazing hair flips over Cleveland.
Home run and a hair flip. Drew Butera with his first homer since Aug 6, 2015 at Detroit. 10th of his career, second as a Royal— Joel Goldberg (@goldbergkc) June 2, 2016
The Royals claimed the lead in the fourth inning, as consecutive singles by Reymond Fuentes, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Dyson lead to another run. Kansas City further added to the lead in the sixth inning with a solo homer by Cuthbert, his second on the year and his third career dinger. 4-2, Royals. After allowing a single in the bottom of the seventh, Ned Yost removed Ventura, who had calmed down quite nicely. It was Bullpen Time. Nobody was worried.
And normally, worry is not a thing that should happen, up two runs with the meat of the bullpen coming up, sans Wade Davis (who was unavailable due to recent workload). But baseball laughs in the face of normal.
Almost as a cruel joke in response to the B Team's extraordinary heroics over the last week, the Royals' most vaunted strength instantly decayed: the defense. Napoli led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, but an Escobar throwing error gifted him second base. Kelvin Herrera then walked Lonnie Chisenhall, and got a routine double-play ball out of Yan Gomes.
Our friend Omar Infante wanted the game to be more exciting, apparently, and tossed a bizarrely errant throw to Eric Hosmer, who did a good job of keeping it in front of him but was pulled off the base. Tyler Naquin singled, scoring Napoli, and it was suddenly a very cozy 4-3 lead.
With Davis unavailable, Yost went with Joakim Soria, attempting his second save of the year. Carlos Santana led off by poking a single into right field, when Paulo Orlando, defensive replacement for Fuentes, bobbled the ball and allowed Santana to move to second base. Jason Kipnis sacrifieced pinch-runner Michael Martinez to third base. With Francisco Lindor batting, Soria left an elevated pitch in the strike zone, which Lindor struck to right field. Orlando, defensive replacement for Fuentes, took an aggressive route to the ball and dove, missing it by two feet at least. The ball lazily rolled behind him and the scorers kindly gave Lindor a triple.
Napoli then lifted a fly ball to left field, and Dyson is no Alex Gordon. Game over, 5-4 Indians.
This is the first of an 11-game road trip. Tomorrow evening, the Royals again face Cleveland at Progressive Field.