Despite being the AL's worst offensive team in many categories, the Oakland Athletics have had their way with the Royals thus far in 2016. On Tuesday night, Danny Duffy took the mound on a frustrating streak. Suddenly, the Royals had lost three straight starts by their southpaw ace after going on a lengthly winning streak all summer. They needed Duffy to step up with a big start, and with little-to-no room for error, he came through for his team.
Unfortunately, Joakim Soria did not.
The disastrous season for the formerly-glamorous reliever continued, as for the 12th time this season, Soria was on the mound as either the tying or go-ahead (in this case, both) runs crossed the plate. Though he wasn't officially tagged with the decision in the Royals 5-3 loss, he clearly is to blame.
The Royals manufactured three runs in the game's first six innings. Paulo Orlando socked a two-RBI single in the fourth, and the A's answered with a solo home run by Khris Davis. In the sixth, Alcides Escobar gave Kansas City its two-run cushion back on an RBI single through the right-side hole, plating Salvador Perez, who beat a late throw from Brett Eibner.
Heading into the eighth inning, the Royals led 3-1, and Duffy was in complete control, having only surrendered two hits all night. Ryon Healy led off the frame with a mammoth solo homer, slashing the lead in half. Then, after getting an out, Duffy walked Eibner, ending his night after 7.1 innings and 98 pitches.
Fans were expecting Kelvin Herrera to be inserted into the game, but instead, it was the left-handed Matt Strahm. He got Renato Nunez to pop out to third, and the inning appeared to be heading to an end when Chad Pinder rolled a chopper to third base. However, Cheslor Cuthbert bobbled the play, which resulted in an infield single. The inning continued, and Yost lifted Strahm for... Joakim Soria. Some fans booed as he entered from the left-field bullpen. The ones that didn't boo certainly still felt apprehensive.
And then, it happened again. Yonder Alonso slammed a two-run double off the center field wall, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score. Things got worse when Marcus Semien roped an RBI single to left in the next at-bat, scoring Alonso and extending the lead to 5-3.
Look, there is no defending Soria anymore. Early in the season, he was the victim of bad luck and a ridiculous batting average of balls in play. In May, he was really good. He was also pretty good in June. In July, he was a complete disaster. Things haven't been anywhere near okay since. Seriously, I bet most fans would tell you they'd rather have seen Peter Moylan, who pitched a meaningless ninth inning, come in with the contest on the line. Herrera was unavailable for four outs? Strahm can't face right-handers, ever? Soria can't be the best option. He just can't be.
Matt Strahm was officially charged with the loss. He is 2-1.
Duffy's final line: 7.1 innings, three hits, three runs, and six strikeouts. This was his best performance since his long winning streak came to an end. As for the A's starter, Cotton lasted just 5.2 innings, scattering seven hits and allowing three runs. He struck out just two Royals.
The winning pitcher is John Axford, who escaped a first-and-third, no-out jam in the bottom of the seventh inning. This was also a big blown opportunity for the Royals, who had the chance to blow the contest wide open. Instead, Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales hit into soft groundouts, and no runs scored.
Ryan Madson earned his 30th save of the season, and it came against the team that he starred with last year. The Royals did put two men on to get Hosmer to the plate representing the winning run, and Madson balked to bring home one run, but Hosmer grounded out softly to end the game. $200 million my ass.
The Royals are 74-70. They likely can only lose two or three more games (there are 18 left) if they want to seize a playoff spot. Yikes.