It was just the fourth game of the year, but Royals fans desperately needed to see a win before completely freaking out. Some fans were already in a state of panic. Who knows what the atmosphere would have been like at Kauffman Stadium had things not turned around and in a hurry.
Friday night’s 5-1 win over the Houston Astros was a relief. Not necessarily because it erased the sting from the opening sweep in Minnesota, but because we now have an actual example of the Royals pitching staff not being a complete dumpster fire.
Salvador Perez broke a scoreless tie with a leadoff home run in the second inning. The towering blast slammed off the wall behind the left-field bleachers, marking Perez’ second homer of the year. As a team, the Royals have four home runs: two by Perez and two by Mike Moustakas.
In the sixth, the Royals loaded the bases with two outs for Paulo Orlando, who quickly fell behind in the count by hacking away at out-of-the-zone pitches. But he was bailed out when catcher’s interference was called, allowing Moustakas to trot home from third and double the Royals lead to 2-0. It didn’t officially qualify as a plate appearance, but when an offense is struggling as much as Kansas City’s is, runs are runs.
The unorthodox run-scoring ways continued in the eighth. Kansas City re-loaded the bases for the third straight inning on a single, a walk, and an infield single, and Perez scurried home on a wild pitch.
It wasn’t until Alex Gordon’s two-out, two-run double where you could really see the offense exhale a bit. It was a big hit with runners in scoring position for the first time all year, and it came in the team’s 25th RISP chance. On the year, they are 4-for-29 with runners in scoring position on the year after going 3-for-15 tonight. It’s still terrible, but they were 1-for-14 heading into tonight, so it’s slightly less terrible.
Jason Vargas, making his season debut, was fantastic. His final line will show that he allowed one run in 6.0 innings of work, but he held the Astros scoreless until the seventh. He was pulled after allowing the first two batters to reach that inning. After Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel battled shaky command the last two days, Vargas held the Astros to just one walk as opposed to six strikeouts. He scattered six hits and threw 93 pitches.
The bullpen was called upon to extinguish a fire in the seventh inning. Peter Moylan entered and struck out the only two batters he faced, and after Travis Wood got Nori Aoki to fly out, the Royals had escaped the seventh with a lead for the first time all year.
Joakim Soria got through the eighth thanks to a tremendous, against-the-wall catch by Lorenzo Cain, and Kelvin Herrera made his season debut by working through the ninth.
Vargas (1-0) earned his first win since July 2015. For the Astros, Mike Fiers (0-1) took the loss, but he pitched fairly well, allowing two runs in 5.2 innings of work.
Eric Hosmer twice grounded into inning-ending double plays, including a soul-crushing groundout with the bases loaded in the seventh that made me throw a Christmas wreath to the ground. Here’s the video:
The $200 million man is off to a banner start in his contract year.
Brandon Moss, who is still hitless on the year, drew three walks. His .000/.333/.000 slash line looks funny. Also, Raul Mondesi Jr. stole two bases.
Tomorrow: game two of the series will present a matchup between Opening Day starters. Danny Duffy, who threw six innings of one-run ball in his first start, will take on Dallas Keuchel. First pitch is at 6:10 pm CDT.